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Bill of sale

Transfer of Ownership of Bondsmen or Bondswomen

As found in the exchange of the most common goods and services, the buying and selling of African slaves was most readily documented using receipts and Bills of Sale. Mundane in their composition, these legally binding contracts are comparable to Bills of Sale found for the exchange of textiles, household goods, and livestock. It is the clinical and legalistic nature of these documents that reveals the accepted attitudes towards the value of an African life. While phrases such as “to have and to hold” conjure thoughts of marriage, it is important to recognize that this language was used for no other purpose than to protect the seller and the purchaser in the exchange, and cement the transfer of ownership. Such is the case in this Bill of Sale, documenting the exchange of fifteen-year-old “Negro Wench Molly” to Peter Lefever from Mathusalem Dubois for the sum of sixty-eight pounds and ten schillings, dated March 5th, 1798. This value in 1798 is roughly equivalent to $1,300 today. 

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