Selling slave families down the river: Property rights and the public auction

Mark Thornton, Marka Yanochik, Bradley T. Ewing

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Social scientists have tried to determine the extent and effects of the slave trade, especially in the breaking up the black family by going beyond the naive market approach and considerations of paternalism so as to recognize slave owners with powerful economic interests. The research suggests that government generated slave sales led to the breakup of the bulk of family units, while purely private exchanges including commercial auctions tended to maintain family units. The slaves who tend to be sold away from their families exhibit a pronounced propensity to run away from their new owners thereby forcing slave owners to have a powerful incentive to keep families together. At commercial slave trade, the business law required sellers to provide buyer with an implied warranty with an aim to keep families and gang together applied especially to Africans by combining the power of government with the profit motive for public officials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-79
Number of pages9
JournalIndependent Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2009


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