De-accessioned from the inventory of the ill-fated Middle Passage Museum (see museum history below), this very unusual, 19th century, estate document from Sumter County, Georgia is offered for sale, the purpose of which was to itemize and execute a division of property from the estate of the deceased, southern, plantation owner.
This is a partial document missing its beginning and end pages, therefore, the name of the deceased slave owner and the date of the document is not known. HOWEVER, the document remains EXTRAORDINARILY RARE AND UNUSUAL as it proceeds to, first, categorize the 40 slaves using the word SLAVES instead of Negroes, and secondly, proceeds to list the male slaves BY NAME, ALONG WITH NAMES OF THEIR WIVES AND THEIR CHILDREN, with monetary value listed in the right column of the document!!!! In two instances, the number of years married is also listed! Children are labeled "Girl, "Boy", or "Infant". Total value of these 40 slaves was calculated at $24,200.00
Such documents listing ENTIRE SLAVE FAMILIES BY NAME is simply not found, as slaves were viewed as property, not individuals with rights and privileges who had wives and children, the whole of which, constituted a family. It would indeed be a phenomenal piece of history to be able to identify the plantation and/or deceased slave owner as such an estate listing speaks to an uncommon, albeit, rare and unique perspective of slave ownership. Such a listing makes this particular document all the more heart-wrenching, and it certainly begs the very sad question of whether or not these slave families were allowed to remain united and intact once the final estate disposition was conducted.
The document measures approximately 8 1/2 inches wide x 14 1/8 inches long, is double-sided and is in good condition, with fold lines evident along with some age-related foxing at top and bottom fold lines. 1 3/4 tear along the fold line of the top fold at right edge. The ink color is sepia toned (likely as a result of some fading over time) on a pale blue, vertically-ruled, heavy paper. This phenomenal piece of cultural ephemera is ready for appropriate archival preservation/framing.
The listing of slaves is on the back side of the document with the front side listing farm animals, equipment and supplies along with values- "The following property set apart for the use and benefit of the farm".
The Middle Passage Museum was the dream of Jim and Mary Anne Petty of Mississippi as well as that of an anonymous Georgian benefactor who had together compiled a collection of slave artifacts numbering over 15,000 pieces and who had hoped to find a permanent site in Mobile, Alabama, for their museum. While they formed a non-profit organization to raise funds for their hoped-for museum, their dream was never realized.
In a 2003 statement, Jim Petty remarked, "The importance of the exhibit of these artifacts is to understand the harshness of what slavery and segregation was all about. The items in the exhibit remind us of the terrible heinousness of slavery. Viewing the collection can be very emotional, but it is a tool through which we can understand, honor and respect a great culture. We want to realize that out of slavery, a great culture emerged, and carried on, and continued to strive for a better life regardless of the adverse conditions that were placed upon them."