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Belle Grove Hosts Temporary Exhibit "To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade"

Belle Grove Plantation hosted the traveling exhibition "To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade" from Wednesday, July 27 through Sunday, September 25, 2016. This exhibit was created by the Library of Virginia with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The exhibit offers a frank exploration of Virginia's role in the business of the second middle passage—the forced relocation of two-thirds of a million African Americans from the Upper South to the Cotton South in the decades before the Civil War. The story of the American slave trade is one of numbers, but it is also the story of individuals whose families were torn apart and whose lives were forever altered.  One such story occurred at Belle Grove.  In researching slavery at Belle Grove Plantation, 1824 advertisement placed by Isaac Hite was found. It advertised a public auction to include horses, cattle, farm implements and “sixty slaves of various ages, in families.” Belle Grove staff and volunteers are searching for information on this sale and what might have happened to the individuals sold.

Through illustrations of paintings, insurance policies, bills of sale, broadsides, and other items drawn largely from the Library of Virginia’s extensive collections, To Be Sold traces what these documents reveal about the slave trade from the time a slaveholder decided to sell a slave through the Richmond market to the moment when the enslaved person was sent south. Three interactive kiosks explore artist Eyre Crowe’s paintings that recorded Virginia’s infamous trade, trace Crowe’s excursion into Richmond’s slave-trading district, and offer interviews with formerly enslaved people.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park Ranger Shannon Moeck lead a 30-minute program, Kneading in Silence: A Glimpse Into The Life of Judah the Enslaved Cook in the Belle Grove Winter Kitchen. Born in 1794 and purchased by the Hites in 1817, Judah remained their cook until her death in 1836. This program will be repeated again in 2017 along with other talks that discuss slavery in the Shenandoah Valley. A schedule may be found on the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park website.