Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega
Chicago, Illinois, USA
September 11
A (Sometimes) Respectable Negro
Editor and Founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes He has been a guest on the BBC, Ring of Fire Radio, Ed Schultz, Joshua Holland's Alternet Radio Hour, the Burt Cohen show, and Our Common Ground. His essays have been featured by Salon, Alternet, the New York Daily News, and the Daily Kos. The NY Times, the Daily Beast, the Utne Reader, Washington Monthly, Slate, and the Week (among others) have featured his expert commentary and analysis on race, politics, and popular culture.

Chauncey DeVega's Links

Editor’s Pick
MAY 11, 2012 12:42PM

Let's Liberate the Slavery Artifacts for Sale on Ebay

Rate: 12 Flag
Extremely Rare Mated Set of Two Small Child's Size Slave Hand-Forged Rattle Shackles & Made for the Slave Trade c. 1800 19th Century, Set of Two, Small Child's Size Slave Shackles, Hand-forged Iron, With Internal "Rattles," Choice Very Fine.

This impressive set of child size slave shackles are African made for the Slave Trade, although also found located in the United States from time to time. These are described as being, "crab-shaped rattler leg shackles," on page 20-21, in the book, "THE ART AND HISTORY OF BLACK MEMORABILIA" by Larry Vincent Buster. They measures 6" x 5.25" with an opening of 4.75" x 2.75" and 8" x 5.25" with an opening of 4.75" x 2.5".

Based on the circumference of the openings these were of size to be used on children. The oddly-shaped hand-wrought devices contain lateral "pockets" that contain pieces of metal that rattle as the wearer moves about so that his or her location could easily be determined by the sound of the rattle being made. Each has a pair of small chain links attached at the top. One shackle was placed on each leg and a chain threaded through the attached rings, secured with a lock. A museum quality, important historical pair of Child's Size Slave Shackles, having a natural patina that would be excellent for display. (2 items).

One of my favorite episodes in the history of genre television was an installment of the much beloved Alien Nation series which ran for a few years in the early 1990s. Alien Nation, a not so subtle play on the phrase "alienation" focused on how a race of extraterrestrials struggled to assimilate into Earth society after their slave ship was stranded here. Upon arrival, the Newcomers became a metaphor through which to explore racism, ethnocentrism, and prejudice. Yes, it could be overwrought and hackneyed. Alien Nation was also wonderfully sharp and incisive.

To point, there was an episode of Alien Nation which was centered on how one of the Newcomers' high elders was disgusted by the ways that the artifacts of his people were sold to human collectors. Ultimately, the material culture of his civilization was reduced to a fetish object, one utterly disconnected from the legacy of blood, struggle, loss, and triumph which produced it. Their chains, shackles, restraints, religious icons, and other artifacts were reduced to kitsch. No historical weight or context was present beyond that which could accrue novelty, and points for uniqueness, for those who owned such intimately personal objects.

In all, popular culture is oftentimes a stand-in for sociopolitical struggles in the "real world" (as opposed to the pure imaginaries through which we pursue the politics of pleasure and fantasy). But, what to do when history becomes quite literally the playful, curious, and "interesting" objects of collectors and curators who may (or may not) have any deeply personal connection to those things they covet?

We all "own" history. However, some of us are more connected to particular histories than others may be. Black Americans are part of a diaspora. Much of our shared historical and cultural experience is framed by a narrative of disruption caused by the Middle Passage, and the many moments of destruction it entailed, and necessitated. Ironically, blacks in the New World are also an example of generation and creation--where modernity and new civilizations were created by the movements of millions of people from one hemisphere to another.

Whole cultures and peoples were made by the Black Atlantic. Peoples were also destroyed. Peoples were (re)invented. As such, material objects and artifacts were both lost and found. While it should be no surprise, I am nonetheless moved that some of them would turn up for sale on Ebay.

A slave manacle collected in Marrakesh, Morocco, possibly 18th century.Weight about 4 lbs, larger ring about 5" x 3-3/8"inside diameter, smaller ring about 3" x 3".The keyed lock is functional.

We are listing new selections of rare and hard to find ethnographica, please see our other eBay auctions.

We have operated Coyote's Paw Gallery online for many years and have owned brick-and mortar galleries since 1984. We sell at The Traditional Flea in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on weekends- come see us if you're around. We are experienced packers and can ship worldwide- overseas customers, please contact us before bidding with any questions about costs or customs.

We guarantee the descriptions of our items to be accurate.We work for the best possible ratings as eBay sellers, if there are any concerns about items purchased, we'll do as much as possible to make sure the transaction is mutually satisfactory- this does NOT include buyer's remorse!  

If anything is not 100%, contact us before leaving feedback. Thank you for viewing our auctions-

To my eyes, there is something horribly amiss when slave manacles, chains, and other objects of torture are reduced to "collectibles" on Ebay (and other sites), where they will become the property of  the highest bidder.

To me, the personal is, and will always remain, the political. Because this is a first principle, I have a proposition to offer. I think we can do something important in regards to owning a small part of history, and seeing that a few material objects find a proper home.

If a few folks who read this piece here on Daily Kos, Salon, or at my own website We Are Respectable Negroes, offered up a quarter, or perhaps even a dollar, this could be accomplished in a day or so. A few kind folks have already thrown some money into the collective pot (in the interest of transparency all the details are here).

Can we buy back some history and donate it to a worthy museum or collection? I would like to believe that we can.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Hard to comprehend the fetish collectors, but your suggested response is a worthwhile endeavor.
Every little effort helps. We shall see.
I got a great buy on some Mafia ice picks.
"No one ever went broke under-estimating the taste of the public." Does that work here? Maybe only partially as there is so much more at stake and your piece puts it all in perspective. Thank you.
Oh, if I had the money to spare. Slavery is one of those subjects many people are woefully ignorant of with regard to it's long and atrocious history before Christrianity and on up to this very day, where human trafficking is as bad in some cases as those "Negroe Slave Ships" casually mentioned in "Brown Sugar" in referencing being sold in New Orleans. I think most people are ignorant of much of it, because they literally choose to be. Especially us white folk, carring with us the guilt of such a terrible chapter in our history to the point where we'd rather just not think about it at all.

I implore all to learn more. To be ignorant of history is literally to be doomed to repeat it. In fact, we just saw the "Roaring Twenties" and the "Great Depression" (now showing) is still reverbrating through the World Economy. Why? Because we chose to be ignorant of how to prevent them happening again.

If I come into any spare cash, I will ask you for details as to how to make a donation. This is a very worthy idea -- maybe consider also "Crowdsourcing" the funds necessary to remand some of this history into a proper museum of its own.

Earlier this year I read the terrible history of the Congo region under Belgian occupation, "King Leopold's Ghost". On Googling to do some further research on the subject, I was horrified to find that some of the the leather whips used in that era were advertized on eBay. Other than ceremonially burning them I could think of no reason anyone would buy one.
Good idea, Chauncey — you've got a contribution from me.
Found myself wondering: "Hey, would those work on dogs?" Then I reminded myself that dogs were treated with more respect.
I find the idea of someone privately owning or even wanting to own such objects horrifying, but agree that their place is in a museum to be displayed for public enlightenment and as the tragic part of history they represent. I followed your link and I plan to contribute--it's a nice collective endeavor.
I wish I could have given more but ... I wonder if it wouldn't be effective to mount a campaign to contact museums directly to liberate these artifacts. I'm guessing at least the Smithsonian wouldn't need to bring paypal into the effort! I put some contact information, would kill the whole day if I tried to find anything more specific about who to contact for this purpose. Some have specific contact forms, others just e-mail addresses. Maybe someone who has experience in this area can offer guidance on being heard & best approaches for contact.

They might also be able to determine authenticity up front better.

Maybe forwarding Chauncey's posts would be a good way to go?

Smithsonian National Museum of African
American History and Culture
Donate Objects
Have an object you'd like to donate?
Web: Object Donation

Do you have an inquiry that falls outside these categories?
California African American Museum
600 State Drive, Exposition Park
Los Angeles, California 90037
Main number - 213.744.7432
Target Hotline - 213.744.2132

Museum of African American History
Administrative Offices
14 Beacon St., Suite 719
Boston, MA 02108
The Legacy Museum of African American History
403 Monroe Street
Lynchburg, VA 24504
(434) 845-3455‎
I am so glad that you posted this. Thanks for the heads up. I'm so in agreement with the other comments posted here. My vampire novel is set during a time when lynchings were seen as sport and bits of skin and genitalia from those lynched were collected while families posed with mutilated bodies to take photos that were later used to create postcards to send to relatives.

This kind of exploitation of the tools of oppression has been going on for a long time.
I don't mean to disrespect the horror these items represent, but your post and Frog Town's comment reminded me of other somewhat parallel artifacts - in the 1800s there was someone in this area (eastern Ontario) essentially lynched as a thief, all parties of the same ethnicity, and skin souvenirs showed up for quite a while. Also, while I was in England I visited the Witch Museum in Cornwall and saw some horrible instruments used on women - not necessarily women accused as witches, but just nuisances to their husbands - mainly a scold's bridle, fitted over the head and fixing the jaw and, in extreme cases, piercing the tongue. Also hooks whereby a wife could be secured to the hearth...

Anyway, that's neither here nor there. The slave history of the U.S. (and other parts of the new world) is special in many ways, both in its horror and in its (still in process) ultimate triumph. (Obama as prez is a good piece of that process.)
If I look at the picture Chauncey, I can almost hear a child crying.
It is hard to post a rational comment on this.
it's good to be reminded about the real character of those sainted 'founding fathers.'
This is a very interesting post. A friend of mine mentioned that she consulted an expert in a museum who was an expert on these kinds of artifacts. I will pass this on to her. Thanks.
I found a leather whip in my parent's house after they passed. It was in my dad's closet. Recognized it as a Nazi concentration artifact which older cousins brought back from Europe at the end of their Service during WWII. Anyway, he meant to give it to the holocaust museum....and so I did.

I see a lot of vendors at FL flea markets selling Nazi "stuff".
It is disgusting to me but there is obviously a market for it.