A groundbreaking history demonstrating that America's economic supremacy was built on the backs of slaves
Americans tend to cast slavery as a pre-modern institution -- the nation's original sin, perhaps, but isolated in time and divorced from America's later success. But to do so robs the millions who suffered in bondage of their full legacy. As historian Edward E. Baptist reveals in The Half Has Never Been Told, the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States. In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a continental cotton empire, and the United States grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy.
Told through intimate slave narratives, plantation records, newspapers, and the words of politicians, entrepreneurs, and escaped slaves, The Half Has Never Been Told offers a radical new interpretation of American history.
About the Author
Edward E. Baptist is an professor of history at Cornell University. Author of the award-winning Creating an Old South, he lives in Ithaca, New York.
"The overwhelming power of the stories that Baptist recounts, and the plantation-level statistics he's compiled, give his book the power of truth and revelation." —Los Angeles Times
"Thoughtful, unsettling.... Baptist turns the long-accepted argument that slavery was economically inefficient on its head, and argues that it was an integral part of America's economic rise."—Daily Beast
"Wonderful.... Baptist provides meticulous, extensive, and comprehensive evidence that capitalism and the wealth it created was absolutely dependent on the forced labor of Africans and African-Americans, downplaying culturalist arguments for Western prosperity."—Nation
"By far the finest account of the deep interplay of the
slave trade...and the development of the U.S. economy."—Stephen L. Carter
"Baptist has a knack for explaining complex financial matters in lucid prose.... The Half Has Never Been Told's underlying argument is persuasive."—New York Times Book Review
"Baptist's real achievement is to ground these financial abstractions in the lives of ordinary people. In vivid passages, he describes the sights, smells and suffering of slavery. He writes about individual families torn apart by global markets. Above all, Baptist sets out to show how America's rise to power is inextricable from the suffering of black slaves."—Salon
"You cannot understand the economy of the U.S. - or even of the world -without an understanding of how its development was driven by 19th century slavery. This book gives you that, in a stunningly readable, heartbreaking form. Genius."—Mark Bittman, Omnivoracious
"It taught me so much about slavery and how slavery enabled America to become America. Every time I left my house after reading, I saw the world differently. I saw the legacy of human misery underpinning it all."—Jesmyn War, author of Salvage the Bones and Men We Reaped
"Baptist has a fleet, persuasive take on the materialist underpinnings of the 'peculiar institution.'"—Colson Whitehead, Mashable
"The Half Has Never Been Told is a true marvel. Groundbreaking, thoroughly researched, expansive, and provocative it will force scholars of slavery and its aftermath to reconsider long held assumptions about the 'peculiar institution's' relationship to American capitalism and contemporary issues of race and democracy. Engagingly written and bursting with fresh, powerful, and provocative insights, this book deserves to be widely read, discussed, and debated."—Peniel Joseph, Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, and author of Stokely: A Life
"This book, quite simply, offers the fullest and most powerful account we have of the evolution of slavery in the United States from the Revolution to the Civil War. Edward Baptist's account is eloquent, humane, passionate, and necessary."—Edward Ayers, President of Richmond University and author of the Bancroft Prize-winning In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America
"This book reveals a dirty secret about American business and how commerce first boomed before the Civil War. Baptist unearths a big, nasty story: in the North and the South, slavery was the tainted fuel that kindled the fires of U.S. capitalism and made the country grow."—Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family
"Edward Baptist's book belongs on the very short shelf of field-defining histories of slavery. It will be read and debated for a long time to come."—Thomas J. Sugrue, author of Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North
"A myth-busting work that pursues how the world profited from American slavery.... This is a complicated story involving staggering scholarship that adds to our understanding of the history of the United States."—Kirkus (starred review)