One of the nation’s largest slave trading firms, Franklin & Armfield, operated from this townhouse on Duke Street from 1828-1836. Enslaved Africans awaiting shipment to slave markets in New Orleans and Natchez were imprisoned in walled pens behind the house. At night they slept in a two-story rear wing with grated doors and windows.
For enslaved Africans in Virginia, there were few fates worse than Duke Street. “Louisiana was considered by slaves a place of slaughter,” wrote emancipated slave Jacob Stroyer. With the same sentiment, Rev. Josiah Henson, thought to be the basis for Harriet Beecher Stowes’ fictional Uncle Tom, wrote in his autobiography that the fear of being sold south filled enslaved individuals of the upper South with “perpetual dread.”