SPEAKING OUT:

Baltimore Should Have a Memorial to Victims of its Slave Market

by Ralph Clayton
To date, the leadership of the civic and business sector of Baltimore has failed to memorialize the victims of the darkest moment in the city’s history.
Within walking distance of Pratt Street and Baltimore’s inner harbor, tourists can view a number of examples of why the metropolis is known as the “Monumental City.”

The Battle Monument, near the Corner of Calvert and Fayette Streets, is a prime example. Constructed in honor of those who died defending the city from the British during the war of 1812, the structure stands in a prominent (and much traveled) square.

Several blocks away, outside the Edward A. Garmatz Federal Building, the statue of Thurgood Marshall gazes upon all those who pass. Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court Justice.

A short journey east from the courthouse, at the corner of Lombard and Gay Streets, the Holocaust Memorial provides a moving tribute to those who suffered under the Nazi regime.

West of the memorial, near the intersection of Eutaw and Camden Streets, a statue honoring Baltimore-born George Herman (Babe) Ruth greets hundreds of thousands of visitors each year as they enter Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Conspicuous by it absence is a memorial to the thousands of humans who suffered in the slave market in Baltimore.

Between 1808 and 1861 an estimated twenty-five to thirty thousand slaves were shipped from Baltimore for re-sale in major port cities throughout the South.

Between 1808 and 1861 an estimated twenty-five to thirty thousand slaves were shipped from Baltimore for re-sale in major port cities throughout the South. In addition, countless thousands were sold in the market place, auction houses and intelligence offices that lined the area north of the harbor.

Many of Baltimore’s inter-state slave traders constructed their pens in a geographical area bordered by Cove on the west (near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard today), Conway on the south (in the vicinity of the Otterbein Church), Baltimore Street on the North, and Frederick Street on the West (north of the site of the Holocaust memorial). Although there were pens located outside of this area the major traders maintained their businesses close to the harbor for ease of transport.

As a matter of convenience traders moved slaves in coffles down the length of Pratt Street to vessels moored at docks in the inner harbor basin or Fells Point. Baltimore’s “Trail of Tears” covered a distance of more than two miles.

As a matter of convenience traders moved slaves in coffles down the length of Pratt Street to vessels moored at docks in the inner harbor basin or Fells Point. Baltimore’s “Trail of Tears” covered a distance of more than two miles.

Coincidentally, the Babe Ruth monument stands on the exact site of what had been the Joseph S. Donovan slave pen. The pen stood at the southwest corner of Eutaw and Camden Streets from 1858 until its closure at the beginning of the Civil War.

To date, the leadership of the civic and business sector of Baltimore has failed to memorialize the victims of the darkest moment in the city’s history.

While various interest groups in the city have placed statues, plaques and memorials honoring a variety of individuals, nothing has been constructed to remind visitors of the victims of slavery and their “final passage."

Ironically, in order to view a memorial to Baltimore’s Holocaust one must travel to The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. In the section of the museum dedicated to the Domestic Slave Trade, a two-story log slave pen, originally located in Mason County, Kentucky, has been carefully reconstructed.

Adjacent to the cabin a large display provides the names of seven thousand slaves shipped from Baltimore to New Orleans for sale in the Southern Market. The names represent approximately thirty per cent of the total trade between 1815 and 1861.

The list was provided, at the Center’s request, by the author of this article. The names of the slaves were discovered during research of slave manifests stored at the National Archives in Washington D.C.

A tribute to the victims of slavery remains long overdue in Baltimore. Such a memorial would draw numerous visitors and afford the opportunity to teach our children about the thousands of families who left their tears, blood, and broken hearts along Pratt Street, Baltimore’s Trail of Tears.”


Ralph Clayton (rclayton1314@yahoo.com) is a Baltimore resident and historian. His most recent book is Cash For Blood: The Baltimore to New Orleans Domestic Slave Trade (Heritage Books Inc., Bowie, Md.)



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This story was published on October 24, 2005.