The book St. Louis Day-By-Day by Frances Hurd Stadler is fascinating, the entry for January 13th tells a chilling story from 175 years ago:
Nathan Brown, newly arrived in St. Louis, wrote to his brother in the East, relating: “I witnessed the sale today by auction of a very interesting young negro boy, 15 years old — sold for $457-1/2. The little fellow was exhibited on the table the same as any other article — and examined by being made to walk back and forth, & by feeling his joints as one would examine a horse. The little fellow appeared to realize his condition and when the big tear rolled down his cheek would merely brush it aside and hold his head up with an air & manner which won him the sympathies of a great number of the spectators. I certainly never have seen a more submissive imploring look than he exhibited as soon as he was sold; his feelings were vented in floods of tears.” While some slave auctions –usually those held to settle estates–took place on the steps of the Old Courthouse, most sales were effected by private dealers who kept notorious slave pens. Ironically, one of these served as a federal prison during the Civil War.
According to this inflation calculator $457.50 in 1838 is equal to $9,515.96 in 2011 dollars. Wow, for a person! We’ve come a long way in the 175 years since but I don’t think we’re where we need to be.
The poll question this week asks your view on the state of race relations in St. Louis. Improving? Declining? Holding Steady? The poll question is in the right sidebar and the provided answers are presented in a random order.
– Steve Patterson