Although slavery was illegal when the colony of Georgia was founded, it was a well established institution in other American colonies. Settlers were confronted with the economics to compete with slave labor. Carolinians produced cash crops with slave labor that significantly undersold commodities produced in Georgia by freedmen. South Carolina planters provided the first slaves that arrived in Georgia. Other Georgia settlers soon requested permission to own slaves. By 1748, some 350 slaves worked in Georgia, but officials took no action against their owners who violated the law. In 1750, Georgia Trustees resisted the legalization of slavery, but economic pressure forced a reversal of policy.
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African and West Indian Slaves Auctioned in Georgia
Georgia Auction House in 1864
Gold Coast Map
Eighteenth-century Savannah advertisments proclaimed the "superor attributes of African slaves from Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, Angola, and New Calabar." During the early 1790s, Rhode Island slavers dominated this trade in Coastal Georgia. Cyprian Sterry of Providence delievered some 13 human cargoes of over 1,200 African slaves to Savannah.
"The Weeping Time"
In March 1859, Pierce Butler auctioned 436 men, women, and children to offset plantation debts. Butler's slaves were housed at a Savannah racetrack where families were forcibly seperated. This historic auction represents the largest sale in the United States, and was called "The Weeping Time" in consideration of the profound despair.
French Slaver at Anchor inthe West Indians
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European slavers transported approximately 300,000 African captives and 25,000 seasoned slaves to the American colonies from 1619 to 1775. Although Georgia prohibited slave importation in 1798, smuggling was condoned according to a Savannah notice that "boldly announced the sale of 330 New Negroes fom Angola."
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Equiano, captured as a young child in Africa in 1745, later became well known for his autobiography that told of his life as a slave. Many of his tales are from times he spent in the Port of Savannah working aboard a trading vessel. In one account Equiano tells of being almost beaten to death in Savannah by a drunkin slave owner. In 1766, Equiano made enough money from trading on the side to purchase his freedom.
Gustavus Slave Manifest
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The schooner Gustavus of Duxbury, Massachusetts disembarked 26 Africans at the Port of Savannah on October 6, 1821. The men, woman, and children ranged in age from two months to thirty-six years.