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The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry Kindle Edition
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"Antebellum slavery required a complex of social, legal, financial, and political institutions structured to maximize profits that flowed only to a small elite, while leaving the rest of the population poor. It wanted no legal oversight beyond the local, no public education, and no dissent. For laborers, it wanted no person-hood; no wages, education, privacy, clothing, human rights, civic identity, civil right, reproductive rights, or even the right to keep a stable family. It existed at the cost of everything else in the society, including the most basic notions of humanity."
In his book, "The World That Made New Orleans", Ned Sublette introduced me to the practice of slave breeding. Children were conceived, brought to term, and raised to be sold as slaves. The mothers were forced to breed with male slaves, overseers, and slave owners, without their consent and against their will. The owners sold their own children as property.
In this book, "The American Slave Coast", Ned and Constance Sublette present a detailed history of the United States as it pertains to the slave trade. The book demonstrates how America's cherished institutions were built to accommodate the slave trade. It demonstrates how the slave trade influenced so much of American history. The book gives a name to the practice from the previous book, the "capitalized womb." It describes how slaves formed the monetary system of the slave states, and how that money helped fund the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. The children of female slaves were "interest" to the slave owners and their creditors. The book details the creation and propagation of the institutions that created the conditions described in the quote.
The book is long at 660+ pages. However, it is divided into short sections averaging several pages each. The sectioning of the book makes it a relatively easy read for its length. If you like to go beyond the history you were taught in school and discovery the stories that explain the world in which we now live, "The American Slave Coast" is one of those books.
The first two sentences of the quote that begins this review could be seen to apply to conditions today. The authors do connect today's problems to the institutions of the slave trade. Remember that the trade was build over three centuries and ended only half that long ago. However, the authors go to length to show how real chattel slavery was so much worse than the social inequities of today. They state, "Over the years we have been researching our nation's history, we have seen repeatedly that no matter how bad we thought slavery was, it was even worse. There's no end to it."
To steal people's life, liberty and labor is an abomination, but to take their children from them in a systematic, "business-like" way stretches the limits of inhumanity to nearly incomprehensible extremes. This book has come along at just the right time where there are still millions of Americans who simply don't "get" depth of the evil that this long chapter of American history represents.
The other thing to note about this book is that the authors are fine writers and so the tale they tell is not an "academic" one but rather a beautifully crafted and told story thoroughly documented both with statistics but also with powerful personal stories. So, in other words, this book is not simply an important contribution to the work being done on the relationship between (modern) slavery, gender and capitalism it is also a pleasure to read (something which i'm sorry to say cannot be said for far too much of what passes as good writing these days).
We all know that several of the founding fathers were slave owners. But Jefferson was a slave breeder and he wrote on that topic, recognizing that he was made wealthier whenever a child was born into bondage. He estimated that the value of this "natural increase" amounted to 6% annually.
Jackson, soon to be dropped from the front of our $20 bill, was a slave trader. And he personally drove chained gangs of slaves cross country to markets in the West and South.
These are but two of the details from this well written and thoroughly researched book.
This is not light reading, but it is highly rewarding.
Reads like a dream, even though it's a nightmare.