In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa's Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World



The transatlantic slave trade forced millions of Africans into bondage. Until the early nineteenth century, African slaves came to the Americas in greater numbers than Europeans. In the Shadow of Slavery provides a startling new assessment of the Atlantic slave trade and upends conventional wisdom by shifting attention from the crops slaves were forced to produce to the foods they planted for their own nourishment. Many familiar foods--millet, sorghum, coffee, okra, watermelon, and the "Asian" long bean, for example--are native to Africa, while commercial products such as Coca Cola, Worcestershire Sauce, and Palmolive Soap rely on African plants that were brought to the Americas on slave ships as provisions, medicines, cordage, and bedding. In this exciting, original, and groundbreaking book, Judith A. Carney and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff draw on archaeological records, oral histories, and the accounts of slave ship captains to show how slaves' food plots--"botanical gardens of the dispossessed"--became the incubators of African survival in the Americas and Africanized the foodways of plantation societies.

Product Details

University of California Press
Publish Date
February 01, 2011
5.6 X 0.7 X 8.7 inches | 0.94 pounds
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About the Author

Judith A. Carney is Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of the award-winning book Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas. Richard Nicholas Rosomoff is an independent writer.


"An important contribution to literature on the Columbian Exchange."--Frederick Douglass Opie"Agricultural History Review" (05/10/2011)
"Shadow of Slavery is thorough, cogent, creative in its use of scarce historical materials, and beautifully illustrated with color plates."--Susanne Freidberg"Intl Journal Of African Historical Stds" (09/10/2010)
"[An] essential reading for anyone trying to understand the long-ignored interaction between environmental change, global commerce, natural knowledge, and slavery."--Times Higher Education (09/09/2010)
"Essential to any environmentally informed study of slavery in the Americas."--Isle: Interdis Stds In Lit & Environ (01/30/2012)
"This is a wonderful book, one I will recommend to colleagues, friends, and family alike."--Common-Place (04/26/2011)
"Groundbreaking. . . . This informative and enjoyable book offers not your regular meat and potatoes, but collard greens, cornbread, and gumbo."-- (03/01/2012)
"A very readable account that envelops a sobering look at [the] slave trade."--American Herb Assoc Newsletter (01/03/2011)
"An engaging and compelling narrative that opens our eyes and awakens our palates. . . . I highly recommend it to all."-- (01/20/2013)