The city's slave market was at the Artesian Basin (Court Square). Slaves of all ages were auctioned, along with land and livestock, standing in line to be inspected. Public posters advertised sales and included gender, approximate age, first name (slaves did not have last names), skill, price, complexion and owner's name. In the 1850s, able field hands brought $1,500; skilled artisans $3,000. In 1859, the city had seven auctioneers and four slave depots: one at Market Street (Dexter Avenue) and Lawrence, another at the corner of Perry and Monroe, and two on Market between Lawrence and McDonough.
Montgomery's first observance of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation was New Year's Day at Wilson's Grove on Mildred Street. A parade formed at Gilmer's Warehouse, commerce Street. Invited were a brass band, the governor, legislators, aldermen, businessmen, benevolent societies, churches and fire engine companies. Peyton Finley, parade marshal, was the first black member of the State Board of Education. Speakers of the day included Holland Thompson, first black alderman and a state legislator, who advised "show by good conduct, industry, and fidelity, that the year 1866 was a year of jubilee, instead of insurrection." He also told the crowd to acquire land, homes, and education for their children.