“Fancy Girls”

More insights into the horrors of slavery, and more incidences of slaveowners’ distaste for the traders with whom they trucked. The more I read about Southern “civilization” (or “monstrous system”, as Mrs. Chesnut put it), the gladder I am that Sherman swept it away with such force.

(Unrelated aside: Who knew Lexington, KY had such a huge population of slaves? I always assumed the equal- or greater-than ratios of blacks to whites were reserved for cotton heavy South Carolina and Mississippi, but I suppose certain centres were the exception, rather than the rule?)

Smith said that, more than any slave-trading city except New Orleans, Lexington was known for its “fancy girls” — light-skinned, mixed-race young women who were sold into sexual slavery. The best-known dealer was Lewis Robards, who kept his “choice stock” in parlors above his Short Street office.

Not all of these deals were conducted behind closed doors. The most infamous case involved a beautiful young woman named Eliza — said to be just 1⁄64 black — who was sold at Cheapside in May 1843 to satisfy the debts of her deceased master and father.

Abolitionist accounts of the sale tell of a hard-hearted auctioneer who exposed Eliza’s breasts and thighs to encourage bidders, much to the horror of the assembled crowd.


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