An excellent work of vast research that hauntingly delineates the “intimate daily savageries of the slave trade.”



A chilling account of the metastatic growth of America’s internal slave trade in the early 1800s.

Rothman, the chair of the history department at the University of Alabama and author of two previous books on slavery in the U.S., 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. Digging deeply into the horrific details of the hugely profitable slave-trafficking business of Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard in Natchez, Mississippi, and Alexandria, Virginia, where they based their operations from the mid-1820s, the author clearly shows the mechanics behind the exponential growth of slavery in the South as it rose to meet the demands of a growing nation, financially, politically, geographically, and demographically. “Their America incentivized entrepreneurialism, financial risk, and racial slavery, and no one made more of the junction among those things than they did,” writes Rothman in this meticulously documented history. “They became some of the richest men in the country as a result.” Expanding from the successful model of slave trader Austin Woolfolk, who worked out of Baltimore, Franklin, Armfield, and Ballard took out ads, bargained in taverns, and bought enslaved people and took them to New Orleans, Charleston, and other cities in order to sell them for a profit. During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the clearing of Native peoples from their lands allowed for a massive increase in the production of cotton and sugar as well as the proliferation of banks and technological advances like the cotton gin—all of which required a seemingly “bottomless” supply of free labor. As they grew their businesses, these men “helped foster something resembling a national market in commoditized human beings that paralleled the development of national markets in an array of other goods.”

An excellent work of vast research that hauntingly delineates the “intimate daily savageries of the slave trade.”

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-1661-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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