Americans tend to cast slavery as a pre-modern institution--the nation's original sin, perhaps, but isolated in time and divorced from America's later success. Read more...
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Americans tend to cast slavery as a pre-modern institution--the nation's original sin, perhaps, but isolated in time and divorced from America's later success. But to do so robs the millions who suffered in bondage of their full legacy. As historian Edward E. Baptist reveals in The Half Has Never Been Told, the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States. In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a continental cotton empire, and the United States grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy.
Told through intimate slave narratives, plantation records, newspapers, and the words of politicians, entrepreneurs, and escaped slaves, The Half Has Never Been Told offers a radical new interpretation of American history. Winner of the 2015 Avery O. Craven Prize from the Organization of American Historians Winner of the 2015 Sidney Hillman Prize Bloomberg View Top Ten Nonfiction Books of 2014 Daily Beast Best Nonfiction Books of 2014
- ISBN-13: 9780465002962
- ISBN-10: 046500296X
- Publisher: Basic Books
- Publish Date: September 2014
- Page Count: 498
- Dimensions: 1.25 x 5.75 x 9.25 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.74 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-06-30
- Reviewer: Staff
Cornell University historian Baptist (Creating an Old South) delivers an unapologetic, damning, and grisly account of slavery’s foundational place in the emergence of America as a global superpower, balancing the macro lens of statistics and national trends with intimate slave narratives. Delivered in a voice that fluidly incorporates both academic objectivity and coarse language, the book is organized into chapters named after a slave’s body parts (i.e., “Heads” and “Arms”), brutal images reinforced by the “metastatic rate” of the “endlessly expanding economy” of slavery in the U.S. in the first half of the 18th century. The “massive markets,” “accelerating growth,” and new economic institutions in America’s “nexus of cotton, slaves, and credit” lend credence to Baptist’s insistence that common conceptions of the slave South as economically doomed from the start are possible only in hindsight. At the dawn of the Civil War, he suggests, the South’s perception that it was a “highly successful, innovative sector,” was coupled with slave-owners’ belief that objections to slavery in the North rested not on moral concerns, but on fears of “political bullying” from the slave states. Baptist’s chronicle exposes the taint of blood in virtually all of the wealth that Americans have inherited from their forebears, making it a rewarding read for anyone interested in U.S.A.’s dark history. (Sept.)