This introductory chapter begins with an analysis of Eyre Crowe’s painting, Slaves Waiting for Sale, Richmond, Virginia. It argues that Crowe sought to convey the depth and complexity of the horrors of slavery by presenting an entirely different scene: not the moment of the auction, by now so well rehearsed in the minds of viewers, but the moments before. The shift in timing alone forced viewers to consider the topic anew. Instead of drawing attention to the auctioneer and the buyers, Crowe focused primarily on the enslaved. The chapter then sets out the book’s purpose, which is to capture the context needed in order to understand Crowe’s images today. In exploring the images created by Crowe and other artists, the chapters that follow explain how those works helped viewers to see the American slave trade and to understand slavery in new ways.
Keywords: eyre crowe, american slavery, slave trade, slave auctions, slaves