The Power of a Picture
By the 1830s, the slave auction had become a commonly represented scene in anti-slavery and abolitionist publications. Most of the artists who created these images probably never saw a slave auction and they often relied on written descriptions or earlier published images to imagine the scene.
Images of slave auctions powerfully reinforced the vivid written descriptions circulated in abolitionist literature. People who escaped slavery took to the lecture circuit to increase political pressure to outlaw slavery. Henry “Box” Brown, who escaped slavery in Richmond, created a panorama that traced the history of slavery and portrayed his own dramatic escape.