Mapping Sites of Baltimore’s Slave Trade

Baltimore Heritage would like to share some information on the city’s role in the slave-trade in the 19th century. One of our dedicated volunteers, Richard Messick, has spearheaded this research and in his guest blog below, he gives us some insight into what he has found. Thank you Richard!

I once took a tour at Hampton National Historic Site by Park Ranger Anokwale Anansesemfo called “Forced Servitude at Hampton.” The tour described the variety of labor used by the Ridgely family to operate their estate: indentured servants, prisoners of war, and the enslaved community. It was a profound and moving experience that sent me off on a research project to learn more about slavery in Baltimore.

After its incorporation in the late 18th century, the population of Baltimore grew very quickly. One of the many “trades” that grew along with the city was the sale of enslaved people. Two things contributed to this phenomenon. First, local farmers had shifted from a labor-intensive tobacco crop to the growing of cereal grains, which required less work. This caused a surplus of slave labor. Secondly, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793. This new machine could quickly and easily separate cotton fibers from their seeds. From this, the cotton industry became incredibly profitable, which caused an increase in the need for cheap and enslaved labor in the South.

The market for the sale of people that grew up in and around Maryland was extensive. From here, I began locating and mapping the places in early 19th century Baltimore where enslaved people were sold. One resource in particular, Ralph Clayton’s book, Cash for Blood: The Baltimore to New Orleans Domestic Slave Trade, was very helpful. Although many of the associated buildings no longer exist, the overall map shows the deeply interwoven relationship between the trade of human beings and our streets of Baltimore.

— Richard Messick


  1. Donna Eden says:

    Thank you. I’m forwarding this to my Boston family, who also have some Baltimore roots. Some things to be proud of, some things to acknowledge and remedy. This map and your book recommendation are a good start on that work.

  2. Catherine Carey says:

    I disagree with this assertion:

    which caused an increase in the need for cheap and enslaved labor in the South.

    In my opinion the depravity of the planters and their belief in White supremacy led to an increase in the demand for enslaved people. I’m not aware of any published material documenting that planters were forced to use a work force consisting of enslaved people. So I can’t be sure.

  3. Thelma Gibson says:

    I enjoyed your presentation. A slave owner by the name of Mary Ann Emory, owned Anna Maria Bailey on 06/07/1860, when Mary lived in Easton, Talbot County, MD. On 07/18/ 1860, Mary lived in Baltimore, MD, District 11, and Anna is not shown. I believe Anna was sold to a Tennessee slave trader between 06/07/1860 – 07/18/1860. Do you have names and bill of sales records of slave traders operating in District 11 during this period of time? Thank you.

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