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The Chattel PrincipleInternal Slave Trades in the Americas$
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Walter Johnson

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780300103557

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300103557.001.0001

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“We'm Fus' Rate Bargain”

“We'm Fus' Rate Bargain”

Value, Labor, and Price in a Georgia Slave Community

(p.55) 3 “We'm Fus' Rate Bargain”
The Chattel Principle

Daina Ramey Berry

Yale University Press

This chapter describes how slaves—such as Elisha, whose story appears in the beginning of the chapter—developed a keen understanding of their value, even going to great lengths to negotiate their sale in such a way as to maintain family ties. They understood the importance of the monetary value assigned to them and used this knowledge to persuade buyers to purchase their entire families. Some boasted about their muscular physique, while others assured interested parties that a long-term investment in them would bring quality offspring in the future. Yet beneath the bargaining and sometimes begging, a slave's primary objective was to maintain familial ties. In Elisha's case, she and her family were sold in an auction that, according to several accounts, was the “largest sale of human chattels” in American history. Although Elisha's testimony is unusual, the details of this sale provide compelling information regarding the role of price, gender, and skill among U.S. slaves.

Keywords:   value, Elisha, family ties, monetary value, bargaining, human chattels, U.S. slaves

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