The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America


Product Details

$35.00  $32.55
Basic Books
Publish Date
6.1 X 9.3 X 1.9 inches | 1.6 pounds

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About the Author

Joshua D. Rothman is professor of history and chair of the department of history at the University of Alabama. He is the author of two prize-winning books, Flush Times and Fever Dreams and Notorious in the Neighborhood. He lives in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


"The story of the international slave trade is well known to many. Much less known are the workings of the domestic slave trade in the United States that sent tens of thousands of enslaved African Americans from the Upper South to the cotton and sugar fields in the Deep South. With exhaustive research and piercing insight, Joshua Rothman's The Ledger and the Chain brings that history alive through the stories of three men who sat at the nexus between Southern cotton producers and Northern financial institutions. As the tragic legacies of these men are still with us, this book should be read by all who are interested in our current racial predicament."--Annette Gordon-Reed, coauthor of Most Blessed of the Patriarchs
"Antebellum America was simultaneously a robust marketplace of strivers and a landscape of horror for the millions who were enslaved. In this groundbreaking work, Joshua Rothman reveals the intimate connection between the two. His study of the under-examined slave trade shows how it was integral to the rise of interstate commerce, the flow of credit, and the establishment of new transportation routes. He also underscores its systematic cruelty, in which men gloried in rape and casually sold children from parents yet stood as respected members of the community. The Ledger and the Chain is detailed, incisive, and devastating."--T. J. Stiles, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The First Tycoon and Custer's Trials
"We are sometimes told that the quintessential American story is the tale of the small business that makes it big. If that's the case, there's no more American story than The Ledger and the Chain, Joshua Rothman's brilliant new history of the slave-trading entrepreneurs Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard."--Edward E. Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told
"Joshua Rothman carefully and empirically builds from a forensic accounting of the lives and practices of those Frederick Douglass termed the 'man-drovers' and others called the 'soul drivers' to a social autopsy of the whole of American slavery in the nineteenth century. Essential."--Walter Johnson, author of The Broken Heart of America
"Rothman employs his wide breadth of knowledge about the era to vividly depict the human and economic impacts of the domestic slave trade as it burgeoned in the early 19th century...An excellent work of vast research that hauntingly delineates the 'intimate daily savageries of the slave trade.'"--Kirkus
"Through meticulous archival research, Rothman debunks the myth that slave traders were social outcasts and tracks how their brazen advertisements and abusive treatment of captive men, women, and children were used by abolitionists to stoke public outrage. This trenchant study deserves a wide and impassioned readership."--Publisher's Weekly