Unlike many southern cities, New Orleans did not confine its slave trade to a single market structure or even a handful of locations. Instead, slaves were sold citywide. Auction blocks in the sumptuous rotunda of the St. Louis Hotel, private residences, public parks, decks of ships moored along the Mississippi, high-walled slave pens, and commercial complexes such as Banks Arcade all served as sites for the buying and selling of human beings. As the city expanded from its original footprint (today's French Quarter) into the Faubourgs Sainte Marie (now the Warehouse and Central Business Districts) and Marigny, the city's traders, hoteliers, bankers, auctioneers, brokers, and merchants followed suit. Where there was commerce, there were slave traders. 

“When war was declared there was ten boats of niggers loaded at Washington and shipped to New Orleans. We stayed in the ‘Nigger Traders Yard’ there for about three months. … The yard had a tall brick wall around it. We had a bunk room, good cotton pads to sleep on and blankets. On one side they had a wall fixed to go up on from the inside and twelve platforms. You could see them being sold on the inside and the crowd on the outside. When they auctioned them off they would come, pick out what they wanted to sell next and fill them blocks again. They sold niggers all day long. They come in another drove they had, had men out buying over the country.”

—Taylor Jackson, from Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936–1938

Though it is impossible to capture the location of every slave sale that took place in antebellum New Orleans, the map linked below represents an effort to understand major landmarks in the city's expansive network of slave trading sites. Using city directories, newspaper advertisements, property records, historic maps, and an 1854 merchant census from the Office of the City Treasurer, researchers identified fifty-two discrete sites where the sale of men, women, and children took place on a large scale between 1811 and 1862. Though slave pens and auction houses were scattered throughout the city's core, three nodes of pronounced trading activity emerged: Esplanade Avenue at Moreau (now Chartres) Street, St. Louis Street between Royal Street and the levee, and the area bounded by Common, Carondelet, Union, and Phillippa (now O'Keefe) Streets, which, not coincidentally, also served as New Orleans's banking district. 


Sale of Estates, Pictures and Slaves in the Rotunda, New Orleans
by William Henry Brooke, engraver
hand-colored engraving from The Slave States of America, vol. 1
London: Fisher and Son, 1842
THNOC, 1974.25.23.4

Hewlett and Raspiller auction notice for the sale of twenty-four slaves from the Iberville Parish estate of Jonathan Erwin
THNOC, 73-701-L

Plan of 2 Lots and Buildings, 1t District
April 14, 1855
watercolor and ink by Pietro Gualdi, draftsman
courtesy of the Notarial Archives Division, Dale N. Atkins, Clerk of Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans, plan book 10, folio 14

Mapping the Slave Trade in New Orleans
created in 2015 by The Historic New Orleans Collection for the exhibition Purchased Lives: New Orleans and the Domestic Slave Trade.
Base map: Norman's Plan of New Orleans and Environs
1849; hand-colored engraving
by Shields and Hammond, engravers; Benjamin Moore Norman, publisher
THNOC, gift of Boyd Cruise, 1952.29

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