Ziba B. Oakes Papers, 1852-1857
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Brief Description:

The 652 letters in this collection document the business dealings of Ziba B. Oakes, a slave broker, who lived in Charleston, South Carolina. The letters were written by several business associates and cover all aspects of the slave trade such as pricing, selling instructions, and resolving problems with runaways. Oakes’s real estate business and other financial matters are also documented. There is no correspondence from Oakes.

The majority of the letters in the collection are from brokers, agents, and clients from different parts of South Carolina and other southern states with whom Ziba Oakes did business. For example, there are fifty-eight letters written to Oakes by William Wright from Savannah, Georgia; thirteen letters by Burch Kirkland and Company, from Montgomery, Alabama; and twenty-three letters by Thomas Limehouse, from Goulding, South Carolina. In addition, there are letters from traders from Richmond, Virginia and New Orleans, Louisiana. These contain specific details about slaves bought and sold, and give market prices for each city.

Of the approximately 480 letters written by slave traders, 135 were written by A. J. McElveen, whose job it was to travel throughout South Carolina’s Sumpter District and purchase slaves for Oakes. The letters include details about the number of slaves that were purchased on each trip, their gender and physical descriptions, and where on the plantation they should work. Other matters include the problems he had with selling certain slaves and his dealings with other traders. McElveen’s letters also provide insight into the relationship he had with Oakes.

Additional letters document Oakes’s real estate and other business ventures such as the buying and selling of plantations and railroad stock.

Held at:
Boston Public Library Archival and Manuscript Finding Aid Database
700 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116
Created by: Oakes, Ziba B., 1806-1871
Volume: 652.0 Items
Arrangement: Original order of the correspondence has been maintained.
Access Restrictions: Collection is open for research.
Subject Index
McElveen, A. J., d. 1874 -- Correspondence.
Oakes, Ziba B., 1806-1871 -- Correspondence.
Slave trade -- South Carolina -- Charleston -- History -- 19th Century.
Slave traders -- South Carolina -- Charleston -- Correspondence.
Languages of Materials
English [eng]
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Acquisition Notes:   The Ziba Oakes papers were found in a slave pen in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 20, 1865 by James Redpath. In April 1865, Redpath presented them to William Lloyd Garrison. The collection was donated to the Boston Public Library on November 11, 1891 by Francis Jackson Garrison.
Related Materials: Slave Trade Letters, 1839. MS fAM 1034
Related Publications: Drago, Edmund L. ed. Broke by the War: Letters of a Slave Trader. University of South Carolina Press. 1991.
PreferredCitation: Ziba B. Oakes Papers. MS Am. 322. Rare Books and Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library. Courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library/Rare Books.
Finding Aid Revisions: Updated by Kimberly Reynolds, April 2011.