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

Authors: Edward Baptist

Tags: #History, #United States, #General, #Social History, #Social Science, #Slavery

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

BOOK: The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
10.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The Half Has Never Been Told

Copyright © 2014 by Edward E. Baptist

Published by Basic Books,

A Member of the Perseus Books Group

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address Basic Books, 250 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10107. Books published by Basic Books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the United States by corporations, institutions, and other organizations. For more information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA 19103, or call (800) 810-4145, ext. 5000, or e-mail [email protected]

Designed by Timm Bryson

Baptist, Edward E.

The half has never been told: slavery and the making of American capitalism / Edward E. Baptist.

pages cm

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-465-04470-2 (e-book)

1.  Slavery—United States—History. 2.  Slavery—Economic aspects—United States—History. 3.  African Americans—Social conditions—History.  I. Title.

E441.B337 2014



10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For Ezra and Lillian


Introduction: The Heart, 1937



























Major US Acquisitions of Cotton Land from Native American Nations, 1814–1840

Source: US Historical States and Territories

Siczewicz, Peter. US Historical States and Territories. Emily Kelley, digital comp. Dataset.
Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
, ed. John H. Long. Chicago: The Newberry Library, 2011. Available online from

Source: US Census, 1840, 1860.

Gray, L. C., and Esther Catherine Thompson,
History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860
. Washington, DC: The Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1933.

Source: US Historical Counties

Siczewicz, Peter. US Historical Counties. Dataset. Emily Kelley, digital comp.
Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
, ed. John H. Long.

Chicago: The Newberry Library, 2011. Available online from

Source: US Census, 1800, 1840, and 1860.



, seventy-two years after slavery ended in the United States. Claude Anderson parks his car on the side of Holbrook Street in Danville. On the porch of number 513, he rearranges the notepads under his arm. Releasing his breath in a rush of decision, he steps up to the door of the handmade house and knocks.

Danville is on the western edge
of the Virginia Piedmont. Back in 1865, it had been the last capital of the Confederacy. Or so Jefferson Davis had proclaimed on April 3, after he fled Richmond. Davis stayed a week, but then he had to keep running. The blue-coated soldiers of the Army of the Potomac were hot on his trail. When they got to Danville, they didn’t find the fugitive rebel. But they did discover hundreds of Union prisoners
of war locked in the tobacco warehouses downtown. The bluecoats, rescuers and rescued, formed up and paraded through town. Pouring into the streets around them, dancing and singing, came thousands of African Americans. They had been prisoners for far longer.

In the decades after the jubilee year of 1865, Danville, like many other southern villages, had become a cotton factory town. Anderson,
an African-American master’s student from Hampton University, would not have been able to work at the segregated mill. But the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a bureau of the federal government created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, would hire him. To put people back to work after they had lost their jobs in the Great Depression, the WPA organized thousands of projects, hiring
construction workers to build schools and artists to paint murals. And many writers and students were hired to interview older Americans—like Lorenzo Ivy, the man painfully shuffling across the pine board floor to answer Anderson’s knock.

Anderson had found Ivy’s name in the Hampton University archives, two hundred miles east of Danville. Back in 1850, when Lorenzo had been born in Danville,
there was neither a university nor a city called Hampton—just an American fort named after a slaveholder president. Fortress Monroe stood on Old Point Comfort, a narrow triangle of land that divided the Chesapeake Bay from the James River. Long before the fort was built, in April 1607, the
Susan Constant
had sailed past the point with a boatload of English settlers. Anchoring a few miles upriver,
they had founded Jamestown, the first permanent English-speaking settlement in North America. Twelve years later, the crews of two storm-damaged English privateers also passed, seeking shelter and a place to sell the twenty-odd enslaved Africans (captured from a Portuguese slaver) lying shackled in their holds.

After that first 1619 shipload, some 100,000 more enslaved Africans would sail upriver
past Old Point Comfort. Lying in chains in the holds of slave ships, they could not see the land until they were brought up on deck to be sold. After the legal Atlantic slave trade to the United States ended in 1807, hundreds of thousands more enslaved people passed the point. Now they were going the other way, boarding ships at Richmond, the biggest eastern center of the internal slave trade,
to go by sea to the Mississippi Valley.

By the time a dark night came in late May 1861, the moon had waxed and waned three thousand times over slavery in the South. To protect slavery, Virginia had just seceded from the United States, choosing a side at last after six months of indecision in the wake of South Carolina’s rude exit from the Union. Fortress Monroe, built to protect the James River
from ocean-borne invaders, became the Union’s last toehold in eastern Virginia. Rebel troops entrenched themselves athwart the fort’s landward approaches. Local planters, including one Charles Mallory, detailed enslaved men to build berms to shelter the besiegers’ cannon. But late this night, Union sentries on the fort’s seaward side saw a small skiff emerging slowly from the darkness. Frank Baker
and Townshend rowed with muffled oars. Sheppard Mallory held the tiller. They were setting themselves free.

A few days later, Charles Mallory showed up at the gates of the Union fort. He demanded that the commanding federal officer, Benjamin Butler, return his property. Butler, a politician from Massachusetts, was an incompetent battlefield commander, but a clever lawyer. He replied that if the
men were Mallory’s property, and he was using them to wage war against the US government, then logically the men were therefore contraband of war.

BOOK: The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
10.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Convent: A Novel by Panos Karnezis
A Catered Thanksgiving by Isis Crawford
Condemn (BUNKER 12 Book 2) by Tanpepper, Saul
Ugly Beautiful by Sean-Paul Thomas
Bend by Bailey Bradford
The Sex Surrogate by Gadziala, Jessica
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Carter and the Curious Maze by Philippa Dowding