32. 1351 Wisconsin Avenue

1351 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Photo by Bob Rives

Old Georgetown Theater (Dumbarton Theater)

John Beattie held and sold slaves to the highest bidder here. Beattie appears to have maintained an auction block at 1351 Wisconsin Avenue, NW opposite the O Street slave pen. Slave narratives routinely describe the auction block, like the one Beattie operated in Georgetown, as the most humiliating and degrading site in slavery.

Frederick Douglass’ narrative indicts the block famously: “We were all ranked together at the valuation. Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep, and swine. There were horses and men, cattle and women, pigs and children, all holding the same rank in the scale of being, and were all subjected to the same narrow examination. Silvery-headed age and sprightly youth, maids and matrons, had to undergo the same indelicate inspection. At this moment, I saw more clearly than ever the brutalizing effects of slavery upon both slave and slaveholder. After the valuation, then came the division. I have no language to express the high excitement and deep anxiety which were felt among us poor slaves during this time. Our fate for life was now to be decided. We had no more voice in that decision than the brutes among whom we were ranked. A single word from the white men was enough–against all our wishes, prayers, and entreaties–to sunder forever the dearest friends, dearest kindred, and strongest ties known to human beings.”

(Source: Georgetown University)