George Bowers Sr.: A sad day at the auction
A good friend of mine recently shared a copy of an 1860 farm estate sale. Forty-seven bushels of corn were sold to Joshua Arnold that particular day for $2.50 per bushel, which is only about a dollar less than today’s market price. Although the month of the sale isn’t recorded, it must have been during a growing season for there are several acres of standing wheat varying in price from $7.25 per acre all the way up to $11.62 1/2.
Horse halters, choppers, stretchers, and augers were all listed on the sale sheet, each with their corresponding winning bids and bidders. It is a fascinating look at farm life in mid-nineteenth century America.
Sadly, listed along with other farm products and implements are the names of 10 slaves. They were each sold separately, except for a woman and two of her children who brought $610. The price of each individual varied from Emmanuel at $906 to Lloyd at $220. Saddest of all is a nameless individual simply recorded as “one boy-sick.” What value was assigned to this youngster that sad day? $5.50.
As I read through that list, I am moved by the emotions these 10 individuals must have experienced. Although no last names are listed, they were inevitably related and went to four different bidders. That had to be horrible as they were unwillingly ripped apart and dispersed at the whims and the bids of those present. Imagine their heartaches knowing this would be the last time they would see some of their family members.
Then there is the humiliation of being put on an auction block alongside corn, halters, and horses. To have your value derived and assigned on such a heartless basis that only considers potential income has to be as dehumanizing as any event could ever be. Their true values as human beings of inestimable worth were completely cast aside for the sake of profit and productivity.
We also must consider their angst of being forced into new environments. What will the living conditions be like? How will the new owner treat us? What types of work will be demanded of us? What will the food be like and how much of it will there be? Will there be physical or sexual abuse? All of these questions and many more had to go through the minds of those 10 powerless individuals as the cries of the auctioneer rang out.
Finally, there is the humiliation of being devalued due to size and illness. Imagine bringing only $220 compared to your brother who fetched over $900. And imagine being such a liability as to bring less than an acre of wheat. What something like that must do to a soul is inestimable.
Tragically, this scenario did not just occur once as an aberration but was played out millions of times over, week after week and year after year. Over 12 million Africans were kidnapped and shipped to the U.S. and 10.7 million survived to be bantered and traded, bought and sold, abused and enslaved. We will never know many of their names, but we should pause to mourn the immense pain they experienced through this wicked institution. This is not just black history, it is American history, and thankfully, many Christians finally stood up to oppose and halt this sin, though far too late.
As we recognize black history month, let us pause to mourn the physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering of all those slaves and let us resolve to never allow it again, whether it be based on skin color, gender, religion, or politics. No one should ever be treated like that. Let us value and appreciate the millions of our neighbors of color who enrich our lives daily, such as the black families of Charleston who are teaching us powerful lessons about forgiveness.
Let us remember that all of us, red and yellow, black and white, are all children of Adam’s race, and let us cast aside the racial mindsets created by evolutionists that enabled these atrocities to occur and which still echo through sinful prejudices today. Let us each value all others as did Christ who laid down his life for all. In Jesus, George.
George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of seven books, including his latest book of poetry, Holy Verses. He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.