Groundbreaking look at slaves as commodities through every phase of life, from birth to death and beyond, in early America
Product Code: 6740
ISBN: 9780807067147
Format: Paperback / softback
Publisher: Beacon Press
Published Date: 12/26/2017
Availability: Not currently available.
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Price: $18.00

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 from before birth to after death—in the American domestic slave trades.

Covering the full “life cycle” (including preconception, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, the senior years, and death), historian Daina Berry shows the lengths to which slaveholders would go to maximize profits. She draws from over ten years of research to explore how enslaved people responded to being appraised, bartered, and sold.

By illuminating their lives, Berry ensures that the individuals she studies are regarded as people, not merely commodities. Analyzing the depth of this monetization of human property will change the way we think about slavery, reparations, capitalism, and nineteenth-century medical education.


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Author’s Note
Preface
List of Images
INTRODUCTION
The Value of Life and Death
CHAPTER 1
Preconception: Women and Future Increase
CHAPTER 2
Infancy and Childhood
CHAPTER 3
Adolescence, Young Adulthood, and Soul Values
CHAPTER 4
Midlife and Older Adulthood
CHAPTER 5
Elderly and Superannuated
CHAPTER 6
Postmortem: Death and Ghost Values
EPILOGUE
The Afterlives of Slavery
Acknowledgments
Appendix: A Timeline of Slavery, Medical History, and Black Bodies
Note on Sources: A History of People and Corpses
Notes
Index
About the Author

“Berry’s groundbreaking work in the historiography of American slavery deserves a wide readership beyond academia.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“In this sharp, affecting study, Berry reminds us of the cold calculus at the intersection of slavery and capitalism...A well-researched, effectively presented piece of scholarship that forthrightly confronts slavery’s brute essence.” —Kirkus Reviews

“...highly readable and addressing the most heartbreaking and starkly gruesome aspects of slavery.” —Library Journal

“With The Price for Their Pound of Flesh, Berry is now seen as a breakthrough writer who completed the herculean task of filling in the blanks of one of the darkest episodes in American history.” —Essence Magazine

“Brings to light the gruesome history of the desecration and dissection of black bodies after death, especially by professors of anatomy in American colleges and medical schools.” —Adam Rothman (professor of history at Georgetown University), American Historical Review

“A brilliant resurrection of the forgotten people who gave their lives to build our country. Rigorously researched and powerfully told, this book tallies the human price paid for the nation we now live in and restores these unrecognized Americans—their hopes, loves, and disregarded dreams—to their rightful place in history. Searing, revelatory, and vital to understanding our nation’s inequities.” —Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

“Daina Ramey Berry’s harrowing account of how slaveholders turned every aspect of a slave’s life into a commodity to be sold on markets—from the reproductive possibilities of enslaved women to the corpses of deceased slaves—is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding American history, or our contemporary dilemmas. Reading The Price for Their Pound of Flesh will leave you with an overwhelming sense of sadness, but also with great anger that we are still failing to fully overcome this history’s legacy.” —Sven Beckert, author of Empire of Cotton: A Global History

“Daina Berry has written the richest account of the many ways in which an enslaved African American’s body was bought and sold throughout her or his lifetime. From the cradle to the grave and beyond, enslavers priced black bodies based on their imagined fitness for labor, sexual exploitation, use as collateral, and even their value after death as dissection cadavers. In horrific detail, Berry shows that there was a price tag placed on every pound of flesh. She also shows the efforts of enslaved people to assert that their lives had values beyond the money that could be rendered from their muscles and extracted from their bones. Out of the certainty that their souls were pearls beyond price, black people fought to make room for their own system of human values.” —Edward E. Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

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