top of page

The Slave Auctions

As a ship arrived at its destination port, either in the West Indies or the southern States of America, a gun would be sounded and buyers and sightseers would gather for the auction. The slaves would often be treated like animals rather than human beings:

 ..."the slaves were brought in one at a time and mounted upon the chair before the bidders, who handled and inspected them with as little concern as if they had been examining cattle at Smithfield Market." 


Slaves who were not purchased because they were too sick or weak were known as 'Refuse' slaves. 


At an agreed time, the doors of the auction yard were thrown open and a scramble of buyers rushed in to grab any 'refuse' slaves they could get their hands on. Those slaves too sick to be of service were left to die on the wharf.


Prices for healthy slaves rose throughout the 18th century:

  • 1709 - £20

  • 1780 - £50

  • 1800 - £100



As plantation owners liked to pick and choose their slaves to get a 'mixture' (by which they meant people of different nations) slave families were often split up and sent to different plantations.

bottom of page