The Hidden History Of The Thousand-Mile Trek To Enslavement

A drawing depicting the Slave trade
Leslie Taylor-Grover
June 7, 2020

It was just business. Head hunters went town to town, asking farmers whether they had enslaved persons for sale. Almost always, the answer was yes: tobacco didn’t always pay as well as selling our people. 

Then, seven powerful words changed everything.

I will bring them out by land,” wrote James Franklin, a slave trader, signalling his desire to transport as many of our ancestors as could make the journey from Virginia to New Orleans. 

Each enslaved person was given a new set of clothes - not to wear on the journey, but for the auction block once they arrived. It gets worse.

After being snatched from their families, separated from their children, and shackled in chains, they were referred to as a “coffle” - a word usually used for ANIMALS. 

They walked ten hours a day, barefoot, for a thousand miles from Virginia to auction blocks in New Orleans. The most treacherous part?

This movement lasted longer, and grabbed up more people, than any other migration in North America before 1900. White traders made millions, and their families still benefit from sales of the “coffles” today.

This Slavery Trail moved over a million of our ancestors to the Deep South, transforming our fates and in the name of profit. Our ancestors’ lives were filled with pain and we, as their descendants, still carry this pain. We must continue to unearth their stories.

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