Even After Slavery Separated Them, They Refused To Be Lost

scenes from the slave trade in the usa
Zain Murdock
October 26, 2023

Though the trans-Atlantic slave trade ended in 1808, a new phase of enslavement was on the horizon: the domestic slave trade. Driven by rocketing growth in the cotton industry, this horror turned many families to resistance networks like the Underground Railroad, seeking their escape.

Because planters sought to transport enslaved people from the Upper to Lower South, over 50% of parents and children were separated. A third of marriages were destroyed. 

This rupture in chosen and familial communities  left many searching for lost loved ones, long after slavery’s abolition.

Roads filled with those walking hundreds of miles to reunite with their loved ones, leaving or returning to the South. “Quiring letters” were read from church to church, seeking information, and newspapers distributed wanted ads. Some even wrote to the Freedmen’s Bureau.

After surviving a system that deemed them inhuman objects whose purpose was free labor, the newly freed continued to resist by recentering the people they loved - the people they refused to lose.

The domestic slave trade and its aftermath is a vital part of our history – not just because of its horrors, but the story it tells about our ancestors’ investment in community. 

Today, from the prison industrial complex to poverty and gentrification, anti-Black institutions continue to fracture our communities. But the power of community still lives in us.

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