Experience the stories of those whose lives were bought and sold

February 10 – August 25, 2019

Special Exhibitions Gallery

Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865  illustrates the pain and injustice of the American domestic slave trade, illuminating just how widespread the practice of slavery was in American life, as well as its impact on enslaved families across the country.

This exhibition, originally curated by The Historic New Orleans Collection, showcases more than 75 original artifacts, slave narratives, and oral histories. Through interactive displays, visitors engage directly with historical records by tracking the shipment of more than 70,000 people to New Orleans. Purchased Lives also contains a collection of “Lost Friends” ads placed after the Civil War by newly freed people attempting to locate Illinois family members.

Illinois Holocaust Museum consistently uses special exhibitions to tell stories of inhumanity and resilience, both historical and present-day. Purchased Lives, combined with its related programming, facilitates a broader conversation about the legacies of the American slave trade and their manifestations in today’s world.

Check out the online exhibition from The Historic New Orleans Collection>

Read the Chicago Tribune‘s review of the exhibition at Illinois Holocaust Museum>


Hoeing Young Cotton; between 1865 and 1895; albumen stereograph photoprints mounted on board by Samuel Tobias Blessing, photographer; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1979.221.14. Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

Slave collar with bells; between 1800 and 1865; iron and brass; courtesy of the Holden Family Collection. Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

Slave Auction; ca. 1831; ink and watercolor; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1941.3. Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

 All photographs courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection. Exhibition by The Historic New Orleans Collection.




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