This work tells the story of slavery in antebellum America by moving away from the cotton plantations and into the slave market itself, the heart of the domestic slave trade. Taking the reader inside the New Orleans slave market, the largest in the nation, where 100,000 men, women, and children were packaged, priced and sold, the author transforms the statistics of this chilling trade into the human drama of traders, buyers, and slaves, negotiating sales that would alter the life of each. What emerges is not only the brutal economics of trading but the vast interdependencies among those involved. Using recently discovered material, Johnson reveals the tenuous shifts of power that occurred in the market's slave coffles and showrooms. Traders packaged their slaves by "feeding them up", dressing them well, and oiling their bodies. Johnson depicts the subtle interrelation of capitalism, paternalism, class consciousness, racism and resistance in the slave market.
Walter Johnson is Winthrop Professor of History and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.
Introduction: A Person with a Price The Chattel Principle Between the Prices Making a World Out of Slaves Turning People into Products Reading Bodies and Marking Race Acts of Sale Life in the Shadow of the Slave Market Epilogue: Southern History and the Slave Trade Abbreviations Notes Acknowledgments Index