Back in the 1800s, a young Englishman traveled to California in search of gold. After several months of prospecting, he struck it rich. On his way home, he stopped in New Orleans. Not long into his visit, he came upon a crowd of people all looking in the same direction. Approaching the crowd, he recognized that they had gathered for a slave auction. Slavery had been outlawed in England for years, so this young man's curiosity drew him to watch as a person became someone else's property. He heard "Sold!" just as he joined the crowd. A middle-aged black man was taken away.
Next a beautiful young black girl was pushed up onto the platform and made the walk around so everyone could see her. The miner heard vile jokes and comments that spoke of evil intentions from those around him. Men were laughing as their eyes remained fixed on this new item for sale.
The bidding began. Within a minute, the bids surpassed what most slave owners would pay for a black girl. As the bidding continued higher and higher, it was apparent that two men wanted her. In between their bids, they laughed about what they were going to do with her, and how the other one would miss out. The miner stood silent as anger welled up inside of him. Finally, one man bid a price that was beyond the reach of the other. The girl looked down. The auctioneer called out, "Going once! Going twice!"
Just before the final call, the miner yelled out a price that was exactly twice the previous bid, an amount that exceeded the worth of any man. The crowd laughed, thinking that the miner was only joking, wishing that he could have the girl himself. The auctioneer motioned to the miner to come and show his money. The miner opened up the bag of gold he had brought for the trip. The auctioneer shook his head in disbelief as he waved the girl over to him.
The girl walked down the steps of the platform until she was eye-to-eye with the miner. She spat straight in his face and said through clenched teeth, "I hate you!" The miner, without a word, wiped his face, paid the auctioneer, took the girl by the hand, and walked away from the still-laughing crowd.
He seemed to be looking for something in particular as they walked up one street and down another. Finally he stopped in front of some sort of store, though the slave girl did not know what type of store it was. She waited outside as the dirty-faced miner went inside and started talking to an elderly man. She couldn't make out what they were talking about. At one point the voices got louder, and she overheard the store clerk say, "But it's the law! It's the law!" Peering in, she saw the miner pull out his bag of gold and pour what was left of it on the table. With what seemed like a look of disgust, the clerk picked up the gold and went back in the room. He came out with a piece of paper, and both he and the miner signed it.
The young girl looked away as the miner came out the door. Stretching out his hand, he said to the girl, "Here are your emancipation papers. You are free." The girl did not look up. He tried again. "Here. These are papers that say you are free. Take them." "I hate you!" the girl said, refusing to look up. "Why do you make fun of me?" "No, listen" he pleaded. "These are your freedom papers. You are a free person." The girl looked at the papers, then looked at him, and looked at the papers once again. "You just bought me?and now, you're setting me free?" "That's why I bought you. I bought you to set you free." The beautiful young girl fell to her knees in front of the miner, tears streaming down her face. "You bought me to set me free! You bought me to set me free!" she said over and over. The miner said nothing. Clutching his muddy boots, the girl looked up at the miner and said, "All I want to do is to serve you- because you bought me to set me free!"