New signs going up at former slave market site in Natchez

Published 4:24 pm Friday, April 4, 2008

Four new interpretive signs will be unveiled Saturday at the site of the Forks of the Road slave market in Natchez.

“This is a 500 percent increase in educational material for the public to consume in depth without a tour guide or a docent,” said Ser Seshs Ab Heter-C.M. Boxley, who has worked to restore the site since then 1990s.

The Forks of the Road market, by one historian’s account, probably looked like “a sprawling prison camp” where slaves would be haggled over and sold to cotton plantation owners who came from across the South.

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The Mississippi River made for easy transport of slaves from the declining tobacco plantations near the Chesapeake Bay.

At its peak from about 1830 to 1863, up to 500 slaves could be found at the market on any given day. It’s thought to be the second largest slave market in the South. The biggest one was in New Orleans. Trade at the Forks of the Road ended only with the Civil War.

The Forks of the Road was unique because slaves weren’t auctioned, but bargained over by buyers and sellers, historians said. The site was already a traditional market that straddled the city limits when it was bought to move slaves.

Today, a shuttered bar and a parking lot sit on the site. A kiosk with historical information and a sign marking the site are the only evidence of what the land once was.