“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Richmond, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Mechanics of Slavery

Richmond Slave Trail

Mechanics of Slavery Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, April 20, 2011
1. Mechanics of Slavery Marker
Inscription. “But the circumstance which struck us most forcibly was how it was possible for such a number of human beings to exist, packed up and wedged together as tight as they could cram, in low cells three feet high, the greater part of which, except that immediately under the grated hatchways, was shut out from light or air, and this when the thermometer, exposed to the open sky, was standing in the shade, on our deck, at 89°. The space between decks was divided into two compartments 3 feet 3 inches high; the size of one was 16 feet by 18 and of the other 40 by 21; into the first were crammed the women and girls, into the second the men and boys: 226 fellow creatures were thus thrust into one space 288 feet square and 336 into another space 800 feet square, giving to the whole an average of 23 inches and to each of the women not more than 13 inches.”

“The heat of these horrid places was so great and the odor so offensive that it was quite impossible to enter them, even had there been room. They were measured as above when the slaves had left them. The officers insisted that the poor suffering creatures should be admitted on deck to get air and water. This was opposed by the mate of the slaver, who, from a feeling that they deserved it, declared they would murder them all. The officers, however, persisted, and the
Plan of the British Slave Ship “Brookes,” 1789 image. Click for full size.
2. Plan of the British Slave Ship “Brookes,” 1789
Broadside collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (Portfolio 282-43 [Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-44000])
poor beings were all turned up together. It is impossible to conceive the effect of this eruption – 517 fellow creatures of all ages and sexes, some children, some adults, some old men and women, all in a state of total nudity, scrambling out together to taste the luxury of a little fresh air and water. They came swarming up like bees from the aperture of a hive till the whole deck was crowded to suffocation from stem to stern, so that it was impossible to imagine where they could all have come from or how they could have been stowed away.”

Notes of Brazil, 1828 and 1829
Reverend Robert Walsh

About the Trail

Designed as a walking path, the Richmond Slave Trail chronicles the history of the trade in enslaved Africans from their homeland to Virginia until 1778, and away from Virginia, especially Richmond, to other locations in the Americas until 1865. The trail begins at the Manchester Docks, which, alongside Rocketts Landing on the north side of the river, operated as a major port in the massive downriver slave trade, making Richmond the largest source of enslaved blacks on the east coast of America from 1830 to 1860. While many of the slaves were shipped on to New Orleans and to other Deep South ports, the trail follows the footsteps of those who remained here and crossed the James River, often chained together in a coffle.
Body Positions of Slaves in Hold of French Slave Ship Aurore, 1784 image. Click for full size.
3. Body Positions of Slaves in Hold of French Slave Ship Aurore, 1784
Dessins extraits du livre de Jean Boudriot Traite et navires negriers; Monographie de l’Aurore, 1984 reprint. The Library at The Mariners’ Museum
Once reaching the northern riverbank, the trail then follows a route through the slave markets and auction houses of Richmond, beside the Reconciliation Statue commemorating the international triangular slave trade and on to the site of the notorious Lumpkin’s Slave Jail and leading on to Richmond’s African Burial Ground, once called the Burial Ground for Negroes, and the First African Baptist Church, a center of African American life in pre-Civil War Richmond. - Richmond Slave Trail Commission – 2011 –
Title image: “After the Sale: Slaves Going South”, 1853, Painted from live by Eyre Crowe, courtesy the Chicago History Museum
Erected 2011 by Richmond Slave Trail Commission. (Marker Number 2.)
Location. 37° 31.308′ N, 77° 25.187′ W. Marker is in Richmond, Virginia. Marker can be reached from Brander Street half a mile east of Maury Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Richmond VA 23224, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Despair of Slavery (within shouting distance of this marker); Crossing the Atlantic (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); People-Technology-Commerce-Warfare
Mechanics of Slavery Marker facing downriver image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, April 20, 2011
4. Mechanics of Slavery Marker facing downriver
(about 300 feet away); The Navy Yard of the Confederate States (approx. 0.2 miles away); Rocketts Landing (approx. 0.2 miles away); Creole Revolt (approx. 0.2 miles away); City Locks River Gauge (approx. ¼ mile away); Rocketts Landing and Wharf / Confederate Navy Yard / Powhatan’s Birthplace (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Richmond.
Also see . . .  Richmond City Council Slave Trail Commission. (Submitted on April 21, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
Categories. Abolition & Underground RRAfrican AmericansWaterways & Vessels
Mechanics of Slavery Marker facing upriver image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, April 20, 2011
5. Mechanics of Slavery Marker facing upriver
Credits. This page was last revised on June 9, 2017. This page originally submitted on April 21, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,275 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 21, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.
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