Inventory and Will of Charles Moore
The June 1, 1805 inventory of Charles Moore's belongings is reflection of the comparative wealth of the Moore family. It includes slaves, livestock, tools and furniture. His will, first written in 1798 and amended in 1803, gives greater detail and includes names of his enslaved people.
Anne Price's Estate Sale
When Anne Price died in 1820 her belongings were inventoried, appraised and sold at an estate sale auction. Among the items sold were human beings - Thomas and Anne Price's twenty-four slaves. The original records of that auction give us a glimpse of Spartanburg County's antebellum history. Note the connection between the Price and Moore families evident in these documents. The executor of Anne's estate was Thomas Moore and one of the buyers listed is Andrew B. Moore, both sons of Charles Moore of Walnut Grove.
We know very little about the enslaved people who lived and worked on Thomas and Anne Price's property. We can, however, gather clues about them using their appraised values and final sale prices. Give your students a copy of the transcription and ask them what it can tell us about the individuals listed. Examples include:
Who is the single most expensive slave listed? (General at $638) Why? (Most students will surmise that he was a strong male in his working prime - but be sure to mention the possibility that General was a skilled laborer, perhaps a brickmason or blacksmith.)
What was the single largest sale? (Easter & child at $726) Why? (Her child must have been a potentially valuable worker, but the most important lesson to take away from this particular sale is that Easter was valuable because she was proven to be a child-bearing female, the only source of new slaves in the post-Atlantic slave trade south.)
Who was the least expensive slave? (Mary at $6) Why? (Even in the context of a document that records the sale of human life, Mary's story is particularly heart-wrenching. She is the only slave who is described as "old." Her value as a worker was diminished, and even though she was appraised at $50, she sold for only $6, likely because potential buyers weighed her value against what it would cost them to feed and shelter her.)
Hearing Slave Voices
As useful as the Moores' and Prices' records can be to historians, it is important that we not think of slaves as simply a name and a sale price. These were all people with human struggles whose contributions to our society are still felt today. Slave narratives are an excellent way to get a sense of the lives that enslaved people lived. The narrative available below is from a 1937 interview given by a woman named Aunt Charlotte Foster (please note the use of an ethnic slur on the lower section of page 3 if distributing the narrative to students). Foster expressed genuine admiration for her former master, but also described commonplace brutality on neighboring plantations. Her opinions on the occupying Union Army, Booker T. Washington, and education are thought-provoking and are useful for inspiring discussion about the effects of the Civil War, emancipation, and reconstruction.
Music is one area in which African-American traditions are influential in our culture and one to which most students can easily relate. Resistance to slavery was often passive, and music was one tool slaves used to resist their condition. These recordings of folk songs are available for free on YouTube and can be used in the classroom to discuss both contributions of African-Americans to popular culture and passive resistance to slavery.
Long John: a folk song about a runaway slave (appropriate for a younger audience)
After listening to the recording, ask students how this song was a form of resistance. (It was a humorous song about escaping slavery - John ran away in his underclothes, wearing shoes with heels in front and behind so his tracks could not be followed)
I'll Be So Glad When the Sun Goes Down (appropriate for all ages)
The prisoner's lament is not dissimilar from that of the slave, and indeed chain gang songs often have direct antecedents in slave songs. I'll Be So Glad When the Sun Goes Down is an excellent example of this type of song. Prisoners - and slaves before them - could express their frustrations through song.