100 books like The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860

By Calvin Schermerhorn,

Here are 100 books that The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860 fans have personally recommended if you like The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped Into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home

Joshua D. Rothman Author Of The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America

From my list on the domestic slave trade.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have taught history at the University of Alabama since the year 2000, and I have been working and writing as a historian of American slavery for more than twenty-five years. It is not an easy subject to spend time with, but it is also not a subject we can afford to turn away from because it makes us uncomfortable. Slavery may not be the only thing you need to understand about American history, but you cannot effectively understand American history without it. 

Joshua's book list on the domestic slave trade

Joshua D. Rothman Why did Joshua love this book?

Because the buying and selling of enslaved people was enormously profitable and entirely legal in the United States before the Civil War, even free Black people lived in fear that they might be kidnapped, sold illegally as slaves, and never heard from by their friends and families again. Though many Americans are familiar with the experience of Solomon Northup, as relayed in his memoir Twelve Years a Slave and the film of the same name, Richard Bell demonstrates how kidnapping was widespread in the nineteenth century and how thin the line could be between freedom and slavery.

By Richard Bell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stolen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This “superbly researched and engaging” (The Wall Street Journal) true story about five boys who were kidnapped in the North and smuggled into slavery in the Deep South—and their daring attempt to escape and bring their captors to justice belongs “alongside the work of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edward P. Jones, and Toni Morrison” (Jane Kamensky, Professor of American History at Harvard University).

Philadelphia, 1825: five young, free black boys fall into the clutches of the most fearsome gang of kidnappers and slavers in the United States. Lured onto a small ship with the promise of food and pay, they are…


Book cover of The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation

Joshua D. Rothman Author Of The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America

From my list on the domestic slave trade.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have taught history at the University of Alabama since the year 2000, and I have been working and writing as a historian of American slavery for more than twenty-five years. It is not an easy subject to spend time with, but it is also not a subject we can afford to turn away from because it makes us uncomfortable. Slavery may not be the only thing you need to understand about American history, but you cannot effectively understand American history without it. 

Joshua's book list on the domestic slave trade

Joshua D. Rothman Why did Joshua love this book?

That enslaved people were considered commodities is no secret. But in this book, Daina Ramey Berry demonstrates how enslaved people were attached to monetary prices throughout their entire lives. Indeed, enslaved people were in the market even before they were born, and they remained in the market even after they had died. But Berry reminds us that enslaved people themselves understood that their “soul value,” and not their supposed economic value, defined who they really were.

By Daina Ramey Berry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Price for Their Pound of Flesh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Groundbreaking look at slaves as commodities through every phase of life, from birth to death and beyond, in early America

In life and in death, slaves were commodities, their monetary value assigned based on their age, gender, health, and the demands of the market. The Price for Their Pound of Flesh is the first book to explore the economic value of enslaved people through every phase of their lives—including preconception, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, the senior years, and death—in the early American domestic slave trade. Covering the full “life cycle,” historian Daina Ramey Berry shows the lengths to which enslavers…


Book cover of An Intimate Economy: Enslaved Women, Work, and America's Domestic Slave Trade

Joshua D. Rothman Author Of The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America

From my list on the domestic slave trade.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have taught history at the University of Alabama since the year 2000, and I have been working and writing as a historian of American slavery for more than twenty-five years. It is not an easy subject to spend time with, but it is also not a subject we can afford to turn away from because it makes us uncomfortable. Slavery may not be the only thing you need to understand about American history, but you cannot effectively understand American history without it. 

Joshua's book list on the domestic slave trade

Joshua D. Rothman Why did Joshua love this book?

The domestic slave trade business was operated predominantly by white men, but the labor of Black women was critical to making it profitable. Here, Alexandra Finley recovers the stories of Black women who fed and clothed the enslaved in pens and jail, who kept the houses of slave traders, who were commodified for purposes of sexual slavery in the so-called fancy trade, and who sometimes even lived as the concubines and “wives” of traders. Putting enslaved women and their work at the center of the story yields an entirely new angle of vision on the trade.

By Alexandra J. Finley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Intimate Economy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alexandra Finley adds crucial new dimensions to the boisterous debate over the relationship between slavery and capitalism by placing women's labor at the center of the antebellum slave trade, focusing particularly on slave traders' ability to profit from enslaved women's domestic, reproductive, and sexual labor. The slave market infiltrated every aspect of southern society, including the most personal spaces of the household, the body, and the self, Finley shows how women's work was necessary to the functioning of the slave trade, and thus to the spread of slavery to the Lower South, the expansion of cotton production, and the profits…


Book cover of Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade

Joshua D. Rothman Author Of The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America

From my list on the domestic slave trade.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have taught history at the University of Alabama since the year 2000, and I have been working and writing as a historian of American slavery for more than twenty-five years. It is not an easy subject to spend time with, but it is also not a subject we can afford to turn away from because it makes us uncomfortable. Slavery may not be the only thing you need to understand about American history, but you cannot effectively understand American history without it. 

Joshua's book list on the domestic slave trade

Joshua D. Rothman Why did Joshua love this book?

As the domestic slave trade became more expansive alongside the growth of the cotton economy, it attracted the increased ire of antislavery activists in the United States and England alike. Using sketches and paintings of the slave trade made by British artist Eyre Crowe in the 1850s as an entry point, Maurie McInnis explores the landscape of the slave trade in major American cities such as Richmond and New Orleans. In the process, she also opens a fresh window onto the world of transatlantic abolitionism.

By Maurie D. McInnis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Slaves Waiting for Sale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1853, Eyre Crowe, a young British artist, visited a slave auction in Richmond, Virginia. Harrowed by what he witnessed, he captured the scene in sketches that he would later develop into a series of illustrations and paintings, including the culminating painting, "Slaves Waiting for Sale", Richmond, Virginia. This innovative book uses Crowe's paintings to explore the texture of the slave trade in Richmond, Charleston, and New Orleans; the evolving iconography of abolitionist art; and the role of visual culture in the transatlantic world of abolitionism. Tracing Crowe's trajectory from Richmond across the American South and back to London -…


Book cover of David Walker's Appeal: To the Coloured Citizens of the World

Keenan Norris Author Of The Confession of Copeland Cane

From my list on coming of age while Black.

Why am I passionate about this?

Besides having come of age while Black, I’ve published two coming-of-age novels about Black adolescents. Even before I became a writer, or an adult, I had had a particular interest in coming-of-age narratives. From Walter Dean Myers’ Harlem-located Young Adult novels to Toni Morrison’s Sula and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain, I’ve always been attracted to such stories. However, what the book list offered here does is map a reading series for what I see as an exciting intellectual formation for a Black reader.

Keenan's book list on coming of age while Black

Keenan Norris Why did Keenan love this book?

I’ve long been fascinated with Walker’s life and work. Ten years ago, I devoted a chapter of my dissertation to Walker and now I’m working with TED-ED on an animated video and related teaching materials about the man whom Frederick Douglass himself cited as the progenitor of the radical abolitionist movement.

When teaching African-American Literature courses, I’ve found Walker’s Appeal to be an especially effective entry point for Black students who are tired of stories of slavery and Black debasement. Walker, as a freeborn Black man from the slaveholding south (and later Boston), offers a different vision: of impressive erudition and entrepreneurship, of Pan-African pride and militant resistance.

By David Walker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked David Walker's Appeal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1829 David Walker, a free black born in Wilmington, North Carolina, wrote one of America's most provocative political documents of the nineteenth century, Walker's Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World. Decrying the savage and unchristian treatment blacks suffered in the United States, Walker challenged his "afflicted and slumbering brethren" to rise up and cast off their chains. Walker worked tirelessly to circulate his book via underground networks in the South, and he was so successful that Southern lawmakers responded with new laws cracking down on "incendiary" antislavery material. Although Walker died in 1830, the Appeal remained a…


Book cover of Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slavery's Frontier

Alison M. Parker Author Of Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell

From my list on biographies of Black women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian who just spent over a decade writing the biography of the civil rights activist and feminist activist, Mary Church Terrell. I wrote two other history books before I wrote Unceasing Militant, my first biography. I so enjoyed writing it that I plan on writing another, this time on a black woman named Mary Hamilton who was a leader in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in the 1960s. The authors I selected approached their biographies of black women with respect and critical compassion.

Alison's book list on biographies of Black women

Alison M. Parker Why did Alison love this book?

Lea VanderVelde’s biography of Mrs. Dred Scott captures the environments in which Harriet Scott lived her life and filed her suit for freedom in 1846 (it took 11 years before the Scotts’ legal case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court). Harriet Scott filed separately from her husband because she believed she could establish her freedom, thereby ensuring the freedom of her two daughters, whose condition followed that of the mother. An illiterate enslaved woman, Harriet Scott left virtually no documents. VanderVelde provides rich context in which to situate and explain Scott’s life and freedom struggle, vividly recreating her world. This informative book is well worth reading.

By Lea Vandervelde,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mrs. Dred Scott as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Among the most infamous U.S. Supreme Court decisions is Dred Scott v. Sandford . Despite the case's signal importance as a turning point in America's history, the lives of the slave litigants have receded to the margins of the record, as conventional accounts have focused on the case's judges and lawyers. In telling the life of Harriet, Dred's wife and co-litigant in the case, this book provides a compensatory history to the generations of work that missed key
sources only recently brought to light. Moreover, it gives insight into the reasons and ways that slaves used the courts to establish…


Book cover of Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana

Christian Pinnen Author Of Complexion of Empire in Natchez: Race and Slavery in the Mississippi Borderlands

From my list on race and slavery in colonial Mississippi Valley.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of race and slavery in the lower Mississippi Valley because the region is a fulcrum of United States history. I was always fascinated by the significance of the Mississippi River for American expansion, society, and culture. Ultimately, this region of the country is so deeply influenced by people of African descent that must be included in all histories, and I wanted to share their stories in a particular place during the colonial period. Telling these stories in places where they have commonly been less well represented is very rewarding and it opens more ways to understand the histories of places like Natchez along the Mississippi River.

Christian's book list on race and slavery in colonial Mississippi Valley

Christian Pinnen Why did Christian love this book?

Voices of the Enslaved is a beautifully written and masterfully researched book (also award-winning) on the French period in colonial Louisiana. White traces the fleeting appearances of enslaved Africans in Louisiana court records to illuminate how they were able to achieve legal recognition where their enslavers tried to give them none. Out of the many fragments of legal documents, White creates a collage of Black lives in French Louisiana that really illuminates the Black contributions to the region.

By Sophie White,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Voices of the Enslaved as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In eighteenth-century New Orleans, the legal testimony of some 150 enslaved women and men--like the testimony of free colonists--was meticulously recorded and preserved. Questioned in criminal trials as defendants, victims, and witnesses about attacks, murders, robberies, and escapes, they answered with stories about themselves, stories that rebutted the premise on which slavery was founded.

Focusing on four especially dramatic court cases, Voices of the Enslaved draws us into Louisiana's courtrooms, prisons, courtyards, plantations, bayous, and convents to understand how the enslaved viewed and experienced their worlds. As they testified, these individuals charted their movement between West African, indigenous, and colonial…


Book cover of Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made

Michael Zakim Author Of Accounting for Capitalism: The World the Clerk Made

From my list on modern capitalist economy.

Why am I passionate about this?

As both a scholar and a citizen I have spent my adult life seeking to better understand the dynamics of power, especially power wielded in flagrantly unjust fashion in societies otherwise founded on notions of life, liberty, and happiness for all. This has led me to study the history of the economy, not just as a material but as a cultural system that encodes the categories of modern life:  self and society, private and public, body and soul, and needs and desires.

Michael's book list on modern capitalist economy

Michael Zakim Why did Michael love this book?

Eugene Genovese was the most brilliant of a talented generation of scholars whose studies of New World slavery have since been largely deposed by a far more simplistic, black-and-white (pun intended) version of the same. 

Genovese’s magnum opus, Roll, Jordan, Roll, offers an unsparing view of a reality in which neither master nor slave “could express the simplest human feelings without reference to the other,” an especially intimate form of class rule which struck a compelling contrast to the anonymity of the wage nexus increasingly prevalent in the Northern states. 

These dialectics played out in a continual, if asymmetric, power struggle at the heart of plantation life, where the economy could not be separated out from racial, sexual, religious, and ideological experience, again, in stark contrast to the liberal division of social life into autonomous spheres of existence.

By Eugene D. Genovese,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Roll, Jordan, Roll as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A testament to the power of the human spirit under conditions of extreme oppression, this landmark history of slavery in the South challenged conventional views by illuminating the many forms of resistance to dehumanization that developed in slave society. 

Displaying keen insight into the minds of both enslaved persons and slaveholders, historian Eugene Genovese investigates the ways that enslaved persons forced their owners to acknowledge their humanity through culture, music, and religion. He covers a vast range of subjects, from slave weddings and funerals, to language, food, clothing, and labor, and places particular emphasis on religion as both a major…


Book cover of The Book of Night Women

Eleanor P. Sam Author Of The Wisdom of Rain

From my list on Caribbean slavery and its aftermath.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a human product of a Demerara sugar plantation, and spent most of my formative years in this environment. If you’ve added brown sugar to your coffee, tea, or baking, or indulged in chocolate or candy, you’ve probably come into contact with part of my heritage. It’s a heritage with a sweet and a bitter side. My novel The Wisdom of Rain follows Mariama, an enslaved girl struggling with life on a nineteenth century plantation. She could have been my ancestor. Canada has become my home and I’m a proud alumna of York University and the University of Toronto. Most days, I enjoy the diversity and promise of this country.

Eleanor's book list on Caribbean slavery and its aftermath

Eleanor P. Sam Why did Eleanor love this book?

This novel, told from a slave woman’s perspective, illuminates the time of maximal oppression in the slave colony of Jamaica, where White men sexually and physically abused enslaved Black women at whim. Lilith, the main character, came alive to me as her rage and despair grew with the multiple attacks on her body and spirit. 

It took me back to the anguish I felt discovering the journals of Thomas Thistlewood and his chronicling of close to 4,000 acts of rape carried out on his female Black slaves. When I visited Jamaica for the first time, I included Westmorland Parish as a stop. It was there that Thistlewood perpetrated his atrocities – an appalling example of the conditions under which enslaved women and girls lived during this period. 

By Marlon James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Book of Night Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the National Book Award finalist Black Leopard, Red Wolf and the WINNER of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings

"An undeniable success.” — The New York Times Book Review

A true triumph of voice and storytelling, The Book of Night Women rings with both profound authenticity and a distinctly contemporary energy. It is the story of Lilith, born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. Even at her birth, the slave women around her recognize a dark power that they- and she-will come…


Book cover of Slaves and Slavery in Ancient Greece

Josiah Ober Author Of The Greeks and the Rational: The Discovery of Practical Reason

From my list on why ancient Greece still matters today.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with the ancient Greeks a half-century ago. Ever since I have tried to learn from the past, by recognizing the ways in which the ancients were at once very like us and shockingly different. I only recently grasped that the Greeks were like us in their self-consciousness about human motivation: They recognized that many (perhaps most) people are driven by self-interest. But only a few of us are skilled at strategic choice-making. They knew that cooperation was necessary for human flourishing, but terribly hard to achieve. Today working together on common projects remains the greatest challenge for business, politics – and your everyday life. 

Josiah's book list on why ancient Greece still matters today

Josiah Ober Why did Josiah love this book?

The United States today still bears the scars of our long and terrible history of slavery. In this new and wonderfully thoughtful history of ancient Greek slavery, Sarah Forsdyke brings us face-to-face with the lived experience of a very different, but also harrowing, history of human bondage. Forsdyke delves into the question of how slaves lived and worked, how they resisted their oppression, and how the fact of slavery defined Greek society and economy. The intertwined development of a market economy, a citizen-centered democracy, and the systematic extraction of labor from unfree people is a stark reminder that our American story, although in many ways distinctive, was not unique. 

By Sara Forsdyke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Slaves and Slavery in Ancient Greece as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Slavery in ancient Greece was commonplace. In this book Sara Forsdyke uncovers the wide range of experiences of slaves and focuses on their own perspectives, rather than those of their owners, giving a voice to a group that is often rendered silent by the historical record. By reading ancient sources 'against the grain,' and through careful deployment of comparative evidence from more recent slave-owning societies, she demonstrates that slaves engaged in a variety of strategies to deal with their conditions of enslavement, ranging from calculated accommodation to full-scale rebellion. Along the way, she establishes that slaves made a vital contribution…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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