WINNER OF A 2016 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD
The American Slave Coast tells the horrific, far-reaching story of how the slavery business made the reproductive labor of the people it referred to as “breeding women” essential to the expansion of the nation. Amercan slaves were not only labor, but merchandise and collateral all at once. In a land without silver, gold, or trustworthy paper money, their children and their children’s children into perpetuity were human savings accounts that functioned as the basis of money and credit, paying interest to slaveowners in the form of newborns. The collision course of Virginia, the “mother of slavery,” versus South Carolina, the great slave importer, supplied part of the drama of the Constitutional Convention and climaxed in the debacle of the Confederacy. Thomas Jefferson’s prohibition of the African slave trade as of 1808 was not a humanitarian action but instead protected his slave-breeding Virginia constituents—more slave ships came to New Orleans from the East Coast of the United States than from Africa.The American Slave Coast is an alternative political, cultural, and economic history of the United States that shows how the slavery business set the agenda of the colonies and the nation, presenting even the most familiar historical figures and events in a revealing new light.
Ned Sublette is the author of Cuba and Its Music, The World that Made New Orleans, and The Year Before the Flood. Constance Sublette has published, as Constance Ash, the novels The Horsegirl, The Stalking Horse, and The Stallion Queen, and has edited an anthology of science fiction.
“A massive story of impressive research…” —Kirkus
“Riveting and revolting.” —AlterNet.
“Planters said that slavery was a peculiar domestic institution, a way of life. Abolitionists answered that it was the ugliest of businesses. For too long historians tried to split the difference but really took a side by calling it ‘the South,’ a society or a culture. Drawing on the most recent scholarship, Ned and Constance Sublette get it right: it was an industry, a particular market-tested brand with varieties adapted to its changing times and places. And like all industries it had a politics, too, that affected producers, consumers, and the workers who, in this peculiar case, were not only labor but also capital and, in the bodies of their children, product. The three-hundred-year story has rarely, if ever, been told so fully or so well.“—David Waldstreicher, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, author of Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification
“The Sublettes offer an economic history and theory of slavery that is blunt in its assessment, unassailable in its argument and accessible to a general reader.” —The Guardian
“The American story cannot be told without a knowledge of its complete history. In The American Slave Coast, the Sublettes have painstakingly provided readers with both a compelling narrative and a well-documented and factual rendering. In addition, to its many other applications, The American Slave Coast will be extremely useful as an exemplar in the contemplated National Slavery Museum in Virginia.” — L. Douglas Wilder, Former Governor of Virginia and author of Son of Virginia: A Life in America’s Political Arena