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Franklin and Armfield and George Kephart

Alexandria, Virginia slave pen, courtesy Library of Congress

The city of Alexandria has a Chain of Title for 1315 Duke Street which is both helpful and timely. It is useful to look at the chain of title when reading Dr. John Rothman’s newly released book, The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America. Rothman’s book gives extraordinary insight into slave traders, particularly Isaac Franklin and John Armfield and Rice Ballard, who grew wealthy “selling souls” – the term used by enslaved and free Blacks.

George Kephart, a slave agent with Franklin & Armfield, eventually bought the business from them in 1837. Kephart has been discussed on Nest of Abolitionists and his cruel occupations deserve a book of their own. Two young tenants, Emma and George Moore, lived at Kephart’s northern Virginia “Belmont” farm (now an event center and golf course…just think) in Loudoun County. Emma described the fear she felt for Kephart and the sadness of seeing his coffles. She called him a cruel man, which of course, he was. These men were by choice, cruel men.

Belmont, Loudoun County home of slave trader George Kephart, photo taken by author

All of this may seem peripheral to the Quakers living a few miles up the road from Belmont, or the Quakers in Alexandria, Virginia, a community with a strong Society of Friends presence. But the slave trade was on oppressive and constant view in northern Virginia, which Rothman’s The Ledger and the Chain makes clear.

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