ST. LOUIS (AP) - A Lindenwood University professor organized a mock slave auction Saturday on the steps of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis to "set the tone" for a Civil War event scheduled for May 1 at Jefferson Barracks.
Nearly 170 people showed up to play the roles of slaves, soldiers and bidders in an event that had some spectators moved to tears at the brutality of seeing shackled families - even if they were just playing parts in a re-enactment.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday that the event, organized by adjunct professor Angela da Silva, was a preface to the May event that will be part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, a commemoration of the war that happened 150 years ago.
"To be actually sold and think about never seeing my family against - it was very emotional," said Jeremy Cosby, 22, of Florissant, who played the part of a slave blacksmith. He said he took the role because he wanted to step back in time to understand what slaves went through.
One by one, the auctioneer yelled out the skills as the actors stood shackled on an auction block.
"Take a good look at them because we're going to sell them," he barked.
Among those up for sale was a sobbing woman that was a good ladies' maid, the auctioneer said. Two orphaned siblings were good at field work, but a potential owner could use them as he pleased and they did not need to be sold together.
Interested bidders poked and prodded the slaves. Some who came to watch the re-enactment sobbed as a husband was taken from his wife after the two were purchased by different bidders.
Rufus Conner, 57, of St. Louis, said his great-great-grandfather was a slave in Mississippi. He said the re-enactment showed him the devastating effects of slavery endured by his ancestors.
"To me, it was a reminder," Conner said. "It is our history."