Black History: Fancy Girls Were The Cream Of The Crop In The Slave Trade Market

There was another historical fact that may or may not have been taught in schools and reveals the dark truths surrounding African Americans and the slave trade—fancy girls.

The Instagram account Black Feelings, which shares Black historical facts possibly unknown to the masses, posted an informative and grim reel about the trading of “fancy girls” in the 1800s.

According to the reel, fancy girls were light-skinned Black girls and a marketable asset to the slave market. White male enslavers were obsessed with fancy girls to where they’d spend up to $2,000 for them—equivalent to $80,000 today.

“To put this into perspective, with $2,000, one could acquire 500 acres of land or even five premium horses,” the reel’s narrator said. “A skilled craftsman of the tie would need to work for a staggering ten years to earn this sum.”

Black Feelings reported that the highest amount paid for a fancy girl was $5,233—around $200,000 today.

Owning a fancy girl (or multiple) was a status symbol for white enslavers, traders, gamblers and saloon keepers.

The fancy trade no doubt exhibited colorism, with enslavers showing favoritism towards lighter-skinned Black young girls. But this didn’t benefit them. Life as a fancy girl was hell because they were raped just so white enslavers could fulfill their fetishizations.

According to a dissertation by Tiya A. Gordon of the University of South Carolina, fancy girls “represented the marketing of hybrid whiteness, or ‘whiteness made salable by the presence of Blackness’” and were marketed as sex laborers.

White enslavers fornicated with the mixed-race enslaved women the majority of the time while also forcing them into private prostitution and coerced concubinage—it’s safe to say the fancy trade was one of the most lucrative systems of human trafficking within antebellum America’s institution of slavery.

Many times, enslavers impregnated enslaved women but wouldn’t acknowledge some of their children. Fancy girls’ children they had with 

In 1937, the Federal Writers Project interviewed Mary Reynolds, a formerly enslaved woman from Black River, Louisiana. Reynolds recalled her enslaver, Dr. Andrew Robert Kilpatrick, having a fancy girl, Margaret.

“Once Massa goes to Baton Rouge and brung back a yaller gal [Margaret] dressed in fine style. She was a seamster n—r,” Reynolds said. “He builds her a house’ way from the [slave] quarters, and she done fine sewin’ for the whites. Us n—s knowed the doctor took a black woman quick as he did a white and took any on his place he wanted, and he took them often.”

She continued, “But mostly the chillun born on the place looked like niggers. Aunt Cheyney allus say four of hers was massas, but he didn’t give them no mind. But this yaller gal breeds so fast and gits a mess of white young’uns. She larnt [taught] them fine manners and combs out they hair.”

Reynolds said that Dr. Kilpatrick’s wife had a feeling that he fathered Margaret’s children, even after hearing Maraget’s children tell her children that they had the same father. She threatened to leave him.

“Once two of them goes down the hill to the doll house where the Kilpatrick chillun [are] playin’. They wants to go in the dollhouse, and one of the Kilpatrick boys say, ‘That’s for white chillun.’ They say, ‘We ain’t no niggers, ’cause we got the same daddy you has, and he comes to see us near every day and fetches us clothes and things from town.’ They are fussin’, and Missy Kilpatrick is listenin’ out her chamber window. She heard them white niggers say, ‘He is our daddy, and we call him daddy when he comes to our house to see our mama.’”