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The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation Hardcover – January 24, 2017
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“Berry’s groundbreaking work in the historiography of American slavery deserves a wide readership beyond academia.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“In this sharp, affecting study, Berry reminds us of the cold calculus at the intersection of slavery and capitalism...A well-researched, effectively presented piece of scholarship that forthrightly confronts slavery’s brute essence.”
“...highly readable and addressing the most heartbreaking and starkly gruesome aspects of slavery.”
“With The Price for Their Pound of Flesh, Berry is now seen as a breakthrough writer who completed the herculean task of filling in the blanks of one of the darkest episodes in American history.”
“A brilliant resurrection of the forgotten people who gave their lives to build our country. Rigorously researched and powerfully told, this book tallies the human price paid for the nation we now live in and restores these unrecognized Americans—their hopes, loves, and disregarded dreams—to their rightful place in history. Searing, revelatory, and vital to understanding our nation’s inequities.”
—Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
“Daina Ramey Berry’s harrowing account of how slaveholders turned every aspect of a slave’s life into a commodity to be sold on markets—from the reproductive possibilities of enslaved women to the corpses of deceased slaves—is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding American history, or our contemporary dilemmas. Reading The Price for Their Pound of Flesh will leave you with an overwhelming sense of sadness, but also with great anger that we are still failing to fully overcome this history’s legacy.”
—Sven Beckert, author of Empire of Cotton: A Global History
“Daina Berry has written the richest account of the many ways in which an enslaved African American’s body was bought and sold throughout her or his lifetime. From the cradle to the grave and beyond, enslavers priced black bodies based on their imagined fitness for labor, sexual exploitation, use as collateral, and even their value after death as dissection cadavers. In horrific detail, Berry shows that there was a price tag placed on every pound of flesh. She also shows the efforts of enslaved people to assert that their lives had values beyond the money that could be rendered from their muscles and extracted from their bones. Out of the certainty that their souls were pearls beyond price, black people fought to make room for their own system of human values.”
—Edward E. Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
About the Author
Daina Ramey Berry is an associate professor of history and African and African diaspora studies, and the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Fellow in History, at the University of Texas at Austin. An award-winning historian, she is also a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. She lives in Austin, Texas.
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Top customer reviews
And yet, the text is not well written and is heavily padded--many points are made over and over and over. It struck me as a fascinating and riveting 50-70 page article that was stretched and padded to make it into a book. And Dr. Berry's focus on the human dignity of the slaves causes her to mislabel their owners as "enslavers" (on every page), but an "enslaver" is the person who makes you a slave. Under the circumstances of the time, the people Dr. Berry references were "owners" and the slaves were, in every sense, their property.
Well worth reading, but be prepared to skim and skip.
The author coins the term soul value, an unprecedented term that she utilizes to highlight --and to a certain extent measure and perhaps evaluate-- the force through which enslaved people felt their own worth, acknowledged and exercised their agency, a value that went beyond their economic worth. She introduces enslaved women, men and children, who lived their lives on their own accord, even when, in order to do that, they chose to take their own lives. This is a fascinating historical account on enslaved life and slave resistance that re-defines slave value, price, and enslaved empowerment.
This simply, is a fantastic book that everyone should read beyond the historian, and/or history buff.