In Smithsonian Magazine, Edward Ball writes an incredibly moving article that covers the forced migration of a million African-Americans in the decades leading up to the Civil War.
This story is a recurring nightmare in the annals of Alexandria’s history. As pointed out by the state highway marker in front of the “Freedom House,” on Duke Street, slave traders Issac Franklin and John Armfield often sold 1,000 people annually and shipped them to New Orleans.
The marker uses the term "shipped," but as Ball notes, about half of those sold were forced to walk in coffles for the distant of over 1,000 miles.
Ball tracks the roads they used - Duke Street, Little River Turnpike, Highway 11 - and stopped along the way to ask local historical societies what they knew about the forced migrations that took place in the 1830s and 1840s.
In his piece he writes:
Franklin & Armfield put more people on the market than anyone—perhaps 25,000—broke up the most families and made the most money. About half of those people boarded ships in Washington or Norfolk, bound for Louisiana, where Franklin sold them.
This forced resettlement was 20 times larger than Andrew Jackson’s “Indian removal” campaigns of the 1830s, which gave rise to the original Trail of Tears as it drove tribes of Native Americans out of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama. It was bigger than the immigration of Jews into the United States during the 19th century, when some 500,000 arrived from Russia and Eastern Europe. It was bigger than the wagon-train migration to the West, beloved of American lore. This movement lasted longer and grabbed up more people than any other migration in North America before 1900.