By Kimberly Lopez
Chapter 5: Slave Auction Summary
Emma on the carriage ride to the slave auction feels sick in her stomach because of the holes on the road due to the rain. When people talked no one could be heard because the rain was so loud. Emma sat on the side next to Sarah who was clutching her hand, with Frances on the other side next to Master Butler. They arrive and it’s, like a barn, but bigger, along the sides are stalls where horses are normally kept, but are packed tight with slaves. There’s a platform in the middle and a lot of white folks, standing talking among themselves. There are also a few women. Master Butler walks around and presents his daughter, Frances to men whom she greets with a curtsy and grin.
Master Butler greets Mr. and Mrs. Denman. A slave buyer goes up to a slave and takes a pair of white gloves to run his fingers over the slaves teeth and gums, he then squeezes the slaves arms and thighs. Another slave pleads to a slave buyer to buy him (Bob) and his wife Mary, the slave buyer agrees to buy both of them. The slave seller then approaches Mrs. Henfield concerning the fact that she’s in need of someone to look after her daughter, the slave-seller mentions Emma, but she isn’t for sale. The save-seller offers to talk to Master Butler on the behalf of Mistress Henfield.
Emma sees Aunt Hager in the stalls and Joe. Emma explains that she spends nights in Sarah’s room because she cries so hard about her mom leaving. Emma sees a white lady in a long blue dress walk over to Joe, but he doesn’t look at her when she does. George Weems starts the slave auction and he announces that they’ll be selling the slaves of Pierce Butler.
Both the good and bad
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Slavery is founded on the selfishness of man's nature”. This quote could be used to describe the majority of the events that occurred in the novel Day of Tears by Julius Lester. A man’s ambitions could drive him to do unthinkable things such as owning humans for their own gain with nothing in return to those. In the novel one could conclude that one of the many themes is that both blacks and whites are both capable of being both good and evil. When one is to analyze chapter five, “Slave Auction” through a historical lens one will see both evil and good being portrayed through Master Butler.
Master Butler would be described as the evil character, but with good so called intentions in mind. He’s not cold hearted like most slave owners nor is he the nicest because if that were so he would not even own slaves to begin with. However, he is praised greatly by other slave owners in the South for as George Weems says “they’ve been well fed; they're strong; they’re obedient...That’s because there’s no finer manager of slaves anywhere in the South than Mr. Pierce Butler. During these times slaves were harshly treated so someone like Master Butler who “treats his slaves almost as good as he treats his children” is considered a good man. During these times it was common for slaves to be treated like dogs by white southern slave owners.
If you are to examine the rest of the book in a historical lense then you could say that the North and South greatly differed in their views of slavery. In the book when slaves such as Joe, Emma, Winnie, and Charles escaped they ran to the North. They escaped to the North because unlike the South slaves were free to work and own property. In the North slaves or freed African American were treated equally as whites. Emma when she arrives at Philadelphia says that “some of the colored people dress just as good as the white ones. There are even little stores owned by colored people.” Emma goes into explaining how much things differ in the North, how when the whites speak to the blacks they have courtesy in their voice. Throughout this book the tension between the North and South’s views on slavery plays a major part.
All in all, the selfishness and ambition of a man can drive him to do evil things and the north and south greatly differed on their views of slavery. Viewing the story and chapter five through a historical lense helps you understand the different roles that whites and blacks played during slavery as well as how much the north and south differed.