Who Were the Traders?

Slave traders were a diverse group of men.

Slave traders were a diverse group, but there were three main types: jailers, auctioneers who stood on the platform coaxing the audience into bidding ever higher prices, and itinerant traders who scoured the countryside looking for people to buy from planters or at local courthouse sales. The traders working in the countryside set the American slave trade in motion. Some of these traders worked for themselves, buying a small number of slaves in the countryside and then bringing them to the city for sale. Many were associated with larger traders and served largely as employees scouring the countryside for "stock," as traders often referred to the people whom they sold. The public perceptions of slave traders as the most notorious Southerners, reviled by Northerners and Southerners alike, owed much to Harriet Beecher Stowe's depiction of slave traders in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Although most traders never achieved great financial or social success, some did. Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Richard H. Dickinson achieved great wealth.  Hector Davis, a prominent trader in Richmond, served on Richmond’s city council before the Civil War.