Bid ‘Em In

[Hat-Tip to Jubilo! The Emancipation Century] This video could easily be shared in the classroom to generate an interesting discussion. For me its the cadence of the auctioneers voice and the constant refrain of Bid ‘Em In that helps to bring home the horror of the slave trade. It’s incredibly powerful.

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13 comments… add one
  • Woodrowfan Feb 23, 2011 @ 7:11

    I just read Andy’s post about the African-American woman who supports the SCV and then I see this video. I wonder sometimes if the black supporters of the SCV-Black Confederate myth do so because they can’t deal with the horror that their ancestors lived through, at least as one factor….

    • Andy Hall Feb 23, 2011 @ 14:10

      It’s very dicey trying to figure out why people (historical or otherwise) do and say the things they do, absent an explicit acknowledgment from them. Probably better left alone altogether when it comes to individuals. But blogger lunchcountersitin had what seems to me to be a perceptive take on it, that’s part of the picture.

      We’ve seen this before: black families filled with honor at the recognition given to their enslaved ancestors, for the reason that those ancestors somehow fought for what was a pro-slavery regime. The sense of conflict inherent in that is hardly mentioned. I got to thinking: how is it that so many black families ignore these details of their ancestors’ lives, status, and circumstances? Why is it that they are not addressing a key part of the story? After a little bit of thought, one answer was obvious. Black folks are like everyone else: they want to feel that their ancestors were heroes.

      Simply put, there is no honor or glory in acknowledging that a long deceased relative was near a battlefield solely to do menial work as act of submission and service to a slave master. People would much rather believe that their ancestors were called to fight – which would be a recognition of their manhood, of their worthiness to do battle, and of their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice.

      But here’s the rub: if these slaves were in fact recognized for their manhood and worthiness – then why were they slaves in the first place? The reality is, black men were seen as degraded, to use a common term of the era, and subservient. Loyalty, not the capacity for courage, was most valued in a slave. After all, a bondsman who was intrepid enough to flee for his freedom – and perhaps fight for the Union – was of no use to a slavemaster on the battlefield.

      But people of today want to see their ancestors through their own eyes, and they want to see those ancestors as brave and courageous. This focus on “bravery not slavery” dovetails perfectly with the “heritage not hate” narrative of groups like the Sons of Confederates Veterans. By maintaining an unspoken rule to avoid the unspeakable – the horrors of slavery and the contradiction of a slave fighting for a slave nation – both sides get to honor their ancestors without pondering the issues this “service” raises.

      • Woodrowfan Feb 23, 2011 @ 17:43

        you’re right, that’s a very thoughtful reply. thanks for pointing it out…..

  • Larry Cebula Feb 22, 2011 @ 22:49

    Holy shit, that is powerful. What documentary used a clip of this song? I have heard it before.

    The writer and singer is Oscar Brown Jr.:

  • John Hennessy Feb 22, 2011 @ 19:06

    A brilliant piece of interpretation. What a public program or class you could build around this.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 23, 2011 @ 3:43

      My memory class is going to analyze this afternoon.

  • Neil Hamilton Feb 22, 2011 @ 19:03


    Thank you for your comments and agree that distress and guilt shoud be separate things here. I have no guilt over my Confederate ancestors as I have no control over their past actions or feelings. What’s the saying? “Loyalty to our ancestors does not mean loyalty to their mistakes.”

    But in no way will I permit history to be twisted so far out of shape to deny their actions in that time.

    Until our next post,

    • EarthTone Feb 23, 2011 @ 6:19

      Neil, I have to tip my hat to you for posting that on, which is where I first saw it.

      Much obliged, Alan

  • Neil Hamilton Feb 22, 2011 @ 12:13


    Found this little clip a while back and found it quite disturbing, because it reminded me of my direct Confederate ancestor, who I found out had fought bravely at Gettysburg, was captured at the angle, and owned seven slaves, from six months old on up.

    When my wife, doing research on our family history, found this fact out during a computer search, she called me into our den with such a distressed voice I thought she had just found out about a family death or something as bad. When she showed me the print-out that showed Jacob Lee Hambleton’s slaves, I honestly felt a bit of distress myself. And I think that’s a good thing.

    Perhaps viewing such reminders as your short clip above should make us all feel a bit of distress and rethink what the war was about, what caused it, and what the results of it were.


    • Andy Hall Feb 22, 2011 @ 15:36

      Neil, I think sensing a little distress at such a discovery is a good thing, too. Not guilt personally, but certainly it’s something that one would really not have been the case. But it’s an opportunity, too, to see Jacob Lee Hambleton a little more as his contemporaries saw him, in all the complexities and contradictions he had. The best way to honor our ancestors is to see and remember them as they really were.

      • JMRudy Feb 22, 2011 @ 16:30

        You summed that up beautifully, Andy.

        I also think it has to do with seeing the world from the slave’s shoes. This piece does that viscerally, at least for me. I tried to do a semi full deconstruction last week on our blog. This video had entranced me for weeks.

        • Kevin Levin Feb 22, 2011 @ 17:30

          For me its the cadence of the auctioneers voice and the constant refrain of Bid ‘Em In. It’s incredibly powerful.

          • John Feb 22, 2011 @ 22:48


            I agree that the cadence and the constant refrain evoke the horror of it, but his description of her as if she were livestock: Look at her teeth if you’ve a mind. Check her flanks. She’ll be a good breeder. I may not have quoted exactly, but it made me sick. Powerful indeed.

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