A panel version of the powerful and poignant exhibition “Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865” will be hosted by Xavier University of Louisiana beginning Monday, Jan. 21.
Developed by The Historic New Orleans Collection, “Purchased Lives” examines one of the most challenging eras of U.S. history. The portable panel display will be on view on the first floor of the Xavier’s Library Resource Center. 7525 Dixon St., through Thursday, Feb. 28, from during regular Library hours (7:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.).
In addition to the exhibit, there will be weekly presentations/discussions each Tuesday evening in the Library’s Nissan Room from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., starting Tuesday, Jan. 22, with “Why History Matters”, led by Xavier history professor Dr. Sharlene Sinegal-DeCuir and Erin Greenwald of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
“Purchased Lives” examines the period between America’s 1808 abolishment of the international slave trade and the end of the Civil War, during which an estimated two million people were forcibly moved among the nation’s states and territories. The domestic trade wreaked new havoc on the lives of enslaved families, as owners and traders in the Upper South—Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, DC – sold and shipped surplus laborers to the developing Lower South – Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Many of those individuals passed through New Orleans, which was the largest slave market in antebellum America.
The exhibition’s narrative is not limited to New Orleans, however. It examines a complex and divisive period of American history, helping viewers learn about the far-reaching economic and heartbreaking personal impact of the domestic slave trade.
“‘Purchased Lives’ connects the economic narrative of American slavery to the firsthand experiences of the men, women, and children whose lives were shattered by the domestic slave trade,” said Erin M. Greenwald, curator of the exhibition and now Vice-President of Content at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. “The panel version allows THNOC the opportunity to bring this story to communities across the country, encouraging dialogue about the trade and its legacies.”
The display is made up of 10 panels, which allow it to travel more widely. The informative yet vibrant design will feature reproductions of period artifacts such as broadsides, paintings and prints illustrating the domestic slave trade, as well as ship manifests, financial documents and first-person accounts conveying the trade’s reach into all levels of antebellum society. Large-scale reproductions of post–Civil War “Lost Friends” ads depict the attempts of former slaves to reunite with loved ones, even as much as 50 years after the war.
While the Library Resource Center will house the exhibit, financial and administrative support is being provided by the Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit at Xavier
“We are excited to host this important exhibit and the corresponding dialogues for the New Orleans community,” said Dr. David Robinson-Morris, Director of the Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit. “In keeping with its mission, the Center is proud to serve as a critical research, teaching, and public engagement space that develops dynamic programming which will engage community activists, policy makers, subject matter experts, and the Xavier community in thought-provoking conversations aimed at understanding the legacies and contemporary impact of race, class, gender, and systemic inequities.”
He said the “Purchased Lives” exhibit will assist us all in understanding, what Christina Sharpe in In The Wake: On Being and Blackness describes as the “continuous and changing present of slavery’s yet unresolved unfolding.” The exhibit and the corresponding programming will force us all to pause and consider: What does it mean, for those of us in the African diaspora of the Americas, to live in the wake of slavery and as “the afterlife of property?”
In addition to the Jan. 22 event, there are five other weekly presentations/discussions scheduled during the exhibit’s run, including:
Tuesday, Jan. 29 – The Role of Journalism. This session focuses on the role journalism had as a method for families to search for relatives sold into the domestic slave trade. In contemporary times, what role has journalism and social media had in helping families/communities reconnect following separations due to conflicts, migration, natural disasters, missing persons, etc. Especially, what role has the black press assumed in addressing the concerns of people of African descent that are not always covered in majority media outlets?Participants: Shearon Roberts (XU Mass Comm), Renette Dejoie-Hall (Publisher, Louisiana Weekly), Anitra Brown, Editor, New Orleans Tribune)
Tuesday, Feb. 05 – The Importance of Slave Narratives. This session might consider the myriad ways that slave narratives can be read including both autobiography and ethnography. Each critical lens offering insights into persona lives and institutional practices of slavery.
Participants: Jimmy Worthy (XU English), Jerry Ward (Dillard U, English)
Tuesday, Feb. 12 – Black Lives in Cinema. This session examines the depiction of slavery in cinema and considers how film constructs narratives and representations of people of African descent. Session will include series of film clips.
Participants: James Shade (XU English & Creative Writing), Robin G. Vander (XU, English, AADS, and Performance Studies).
Tuesday, Feb. 19 – Family Histories.
Inspired by the Georgetown University history with slavery and the separation of families via the domestic trade to in Louisiana, this session highlights genealogy research. It can include practical information on how to begin searches and resources available, to sharing highlights of family histories in Louisiana. This also includes considerations of Creole family histories.
Participants: Wendy Gaudin (XU History), Jari Honora (professional genealogist)
Tuesday, Feb. 25 – Reclaiming African American Legacies and the Human Spirit. This session spotlights recent projects on African American history in the Greater New Orleans and surrounding areas. These projects include historical research as content for self-guided walking tour app, a series of cards used in teaching history. Session might also highlight an additional walking tour of African American history and along with details of recreating historic moments in African American history. This session considers history in the present, and perhaps provides a working response/addition to the first session, Why History Matters.
Participants: David Robinson-Morris (XU, Institutional Advancement; Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit; Education), Freddi Williams Evans (Ashe Cultural Center), Laura Tennyson (Contemporary Arts Center). Pending confirmation: Leon A. Waters (Hidden History).
For more information, contact: Diana Hernandez
(504) 520-5120 | [email protected]
“Purchased Lives: the American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865” is an exhibition by The Historic New Orleans Collection in collaboration with the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.