1853 Richmond and its Slave Market

In the mid-nineteenth century, tens of thousands of men, women, and children were bought and sold in Richmond's slave market. This video provides a visual overview of the city in 1853, highlighting the auction houses and slave jails that were at that moment the nucleus of human trafficking in one of the most prominent hubs of the domestic slave trade.

The video follows the route of English painter Eyre Crowe's visit to the city in March 1853. He arrived along the the Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad and stayed at the high-end American Hotel one block south of Capitol Square. On his first full day in the city, hoping to find "a possibly dramatic subject for pictoral illustration," Crowe set out into Shockoe Bottom to witness several slave auctions. Crowe recorded what he saw there in his powerful painting Slaves Waiting for Sale.

Over a hundred and fifty years later many seek to understand more about the slave trade. The sites where people were bought and sold in Richmond have been obliterated by twentieth-century development, many of them under an interstate. This video is meant to help viewers imagine what the built environment of mid-nineteenth-century Richmond looked like and recognize the significant physical footprint of slave trading in its commercial district.

Over 3,000 buildings were generated using ESRI's CityEngine. Using photographic evidence, students modeled close to 40 buildings in SketchUp. Additional buildings were modeled and rendered in Autodesk's 3ds Max. Final tweaks were performed in Adobe's After Effects.

Maurie McInnis, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Professor of Art History, provided the necessary reference material for precise building placement of the models from her book, Slaves Waiting for Sale. Justin Madron and Nathaniel Ayers built and developed the 3d animation using ArcMap, 3ds Max and After Effects. Erica Havens, Lily Calaycay, Francisco Cuevas, Kim D'Agostini and Stefan St. John modeled many of the buildings seen in the animation.