Sep 15 2014

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

The fatal shooting of 18 year old African American teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has prompted discussions in our media about racial inequalities that have long been neglected, and that continue to persist in a country whose power was built on the foundations of slavery.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a writer for The Atlantic, had already famously raised the issue of reparations, writing that the US needs, “a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. … Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.” In fact, the part of US history that explains how this country’s economic might was built on the institution of slavery has often been ignored, and never truly been documented in detail.

Historian Edward Baptist meticulously details that untold history. In his new book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, Baptist points out that the myth of the static plantation, inefficient at generating profits, obscures a great forced migration particularly in the decades 1790 to 1860 during which the cotton commodities flourished via slavery.

The book has been widely praised by scholars and publishers alike. But not everyone is pleased with this telling of history. The influential British magazine, the Economist, wrote, “Mr. Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.” Shortly after, The Economist retracted the review, saying that indeed, “Slavery was an evil system.”

GUEST: Ed Baptist, Associate Professor of History and Dean of Carl Becker House at Cornell University. His book The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism has just been published by Basic Books, and he has another new book that he co-authored with Louis Hyman called American Capitalism: A Reader

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism”

  1. Susan Rochaon 17 Sep 2014 at 9:21 am

    This country was built on the backs of the poor of all races. It is truly not fair to discount the hard work of any race or nationality.

  2. donon 17 Sep 2014 at 10:02 am

    really???? u find justification by minimising the the facts. were any of your “poor ” ancestral folks forced to migrate, beaten ,seperated from families ,beaten more ,told they were 3/5 human being, beaten more still. forced to work under threat of further beatings and other abuses (rape of mothers , sisters, wives.) oh and it goes on but ill spare you of the history you hide from yourself …..

  3. Susanon 18 Sep 2014 at 7:25 am

    A while back while reading “Slavery By Another Name” I couldn’t help but notice in the author’s Notes – as he did while investigating – names that are very familiar to us today such as Huckabee – people who have inherited their wealth from having owned human beings. Reparations should be paid by the descendants of plantation owners. The energy conglomerates picked up young men of color who were walking to work, accused them of loitering and sentenced them to death via work in the mining industry – Massey Energy had lots of free labor. This level of mean is beyond human – I’m convinced that it comes from breeding – we raised bees at home and once had a colony that was aggressive – all we had to do was change the queen and they calmed down. Centuries of inbreeding among the “monarchs” show the same degree of madness –

    See also: Shackles and Ivy: The Secret History of How Slavery Helped Build America’s Elite Colleges
    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/30/shackles_and_ivy_the_secret_history

  4. Susan Rochaon 20 Sep 2014 at 9:59 am

    A person’s sweat and hard work and busting their rear ends comes in more than one race and color.

    Many people were forced to come to this country to get away from racial and religious discrimination. Many people worked in factories and railroads and farms. They busted their rear ends and worked under horrible conditions.

    This country was built on the backs of the poor of all races. It is truly not fair to discount the hard work of any race or nationality .

    Nothing has changed. The problem is and always has been the rich against the poor.