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Purchased Lives

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Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

Purchased Lives examines the trade from the perspectives of the millions of enslaved men, women, and children who found themselves at the mercy of the antebellum slave market. Paintings and prints illustrate how the domestic slave trade appeared in the public sphere; slave narratives, maps, photographs, and three-dimensional objects speak to the experiences of the people bought and sold. The exhibition also highlights traders’ roles and the industries that undergirded the slave trade (including banking, insurance, health care, provisioning, and textile manufacturing) and reveals how families and communities shattered by the trade worked against the odds to reconnect in the decades following the Civil War.

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