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Courtesy, Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Map drawn in shows slave markets at the Forks of the Road intersection. The importance of the Forks of the Road as a slave market increased dramatically when Isaac Franklin of Tennessee rented property there in Franklin and his business partner, John Armfield of Virginia, were soon to become the most active slave traders in the United States.

Franklin and Armfield were among the first professional slave traders to take advantage of the relatively low prices for slaves in the Virginia—Maryland area, and the profit potential offered by the growing market for slaves in the Deep South. By the s, they were sending more than 1, slaves annually from Alexandria to their Natchez and New Orleans markets to help meet the demand for slaves in Mississippi and surrounding states. Franklin and Armfield sent an annual overland coffle, or slave caravan, from Virginia to their Forks of the Road market.

These coffles usually left Alexandria for Natchez in mid - to late summer and traveled through Tennessee. Entrepreneurial farmers along the route supplied the coffles with pork and corn.

During the overland march, male slaves were usually manacled and chained together in double files, and were under the close supervision of mounted drivers. Women also walked, while children and injured slaves rode in the wagons that accompanied the coffle. The white men guarding the coffles were normally armed with both guns and whips.

Franklin and Armfield augmented their movement of slaves overland to the Natchez market by transporting them in ships to New Orleans. The partnership purchased a fleet of steam brigs capable of transporting cargoes of slaves from Virginia around the Florida Peninsula into the Gulf of Mexico.

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The brigs were capable of steaming up the Mississippi River to the docks at New Orleans. Slaves destined for the Natchez market were transferred to steamboats for the remainder of the trip. The steam brigs, which were equipped to carry between 75 and slaves, normally operated between October and May to avoid excessive heat in the tightly packed slave quarters aboard ship. A distinctive characteristic of the Forks of the Road slave market was the manner in which sales were transacted. Lacking the competitive, public spectacle atmosphere of an auction, individual buyers and sellers were free to quietly strike a bargain.

Entering through a wide gate into a narrow courtyard, partially enclosed by low buildings, a scene of a novel character was at once presented. A line of negroes There were in all about forty. This dress they lay aside after they are sold, or wear out as soon as may be; for the negro dislikes to retain the indication of his having recently been in the market. With their hats in their hands, which hung down by their sides, they stood perfectly still, and in close order, while some gentlemen were passing from one to another examining for the purpose of buying.

Here we have a remarkable glimpse of a black slave-owner casually browsing through the Forks of the Road slave lot. The offhand way in which Johnson relates his visit to the Forks of the Road market indicates that he had no qualms about being in the midst of interstate slave dealers.

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Local fears of incoming slaves bringing cholera to Natchez prompted passage of an city ordinance prohibiting interstate slave traders from housing their slaves within the city limits. Slave traders operating at the Forks of the Road situated their holding pens just outside of the city limits.

At peak business times, with as many as slaves at the market, the intersection probably resembled a sprawling prison camp. Slave prices tended to rise and fall with the price of cotton and the degree to which expenses incurred by the interstate slave traders affected their margin of profit. Expenses incurred included the costs of the slaves' transportation to Natchez, food, housing, clothing, and medical treatment.

Franklin, who had formed a separate partnership with another Virginia slave trader, Rice Ballard, continued to do business as Ballard, Franklin and Company at the Forks of the Road market until late Business at the market continued to boom during the s. When Paul finally agrees to take on the project, the co-authors begin writing separately with the goal of eventually blending their stories. But when they find themselves entangled in the very forces they are fighting against, Paul and Alex come to a fork in the road where they must reflect not just on the passionate love story they have created together, but also their own backgrounds to resolve how their conflict—and the novel—will end.

The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm

Fork in the Road shares the tale of two college professors who decide to collaborate on writing a novel and in the process, unearth the truth about their characters—and themselves. Bookstore iUniverse site. Login Free Publishing Guide.