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tv   Economics of Slavery  CSPAN  August 23, 2019 9:46pm-10:03pm EDT

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sharon robinson talks about her book, child of the dream. rick atkinson, author of the british are coming. and thomas malone, founding director of the mit center for intelligence discusses his book super minds. the national book festival live, saturday, august 31 at 10 am eastern on book tv. on cspan3 . next, author diana remi barry talks about her book, the price for the pound of flesh. the value of the enslaved from wounded to grave and the building of a nation. this interview was recorded at the organization of american historians annual meeting, and philadelphia. >>this marks the anniversary of the first slavery sold where they come from? >> they came from different parts of west africa but they were actually taken on a ship and captured. and then captured again off of
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a different ship. when you look at the journey, there were two different points while they were taken on two different ships. >> we know about them? >> from ship record, and records from virginia. and we know very little information about them. we know bits and pieces. >> what we know? >> we know that they arrived, they were not listed as enslaved they were listed as servants. we know they came in there pretty sick when i got the ship. and he lived in virginia and some of them created families and had the first generation of african-americans in this country. >>who were they children, women men? >> there are mostly women and men. have their own families and they establish a early committee in virginia. >> middle ages, 17-24 is the ages.
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>> how did it expand from that point? >> slavery expanded gradually it wasn't right away, as time went on and they saw as african- americans or africans were quote unquote good source of labor i don't like using that phrase but good source of labor the could run away they were surviving like native people who they did try to enslave, they decided that africans were the laborers of choice at the time. but for the most part, slavery was an institution that came gradually over time. >>what pushed it to become an institution overtime? >>clearing land, making crops like tobacco, sugar, rice, other crops they could use to produce the goods that were sold and other parts of the world, in 1793 a little later generation later, the invention of the cotton fields and
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opening of new land louisiana purchase, you have lands that switch soil to produce more and more, you need more labor, the slave trade continues and they bring more and more people. >> is that what you meant by economic slavery? i yes economics of slavery had to do with the technology, the crops, the capitalism that was fueling the market, the desire to purchase and sell and trade enslaved people in part of the economic process. >> and at a price on the slaves? how do they do that? >>and why was it necessary? >> every enslaved person was given a value. they were valued and appraise on an annual basis. the records of owners and slavers, that was often done for tax purposes, they had to keep taxes on who they owned, and enslaved people were given a specific value based on what they could do in a given year. or what kind of labor they thought they were doing at the
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time. every year, the that number changed if they were sick or injured themselves. the monetary value was attainable at the market though, they were then given, market value. and that was one that was sort of bartered and a value that was used to trade when people were negotiating and those values were a little bit higher than the appraise values. but the market value was the sale price of an enslaved person on a particular day. >> are there records, and what kind of records show these transactions? >> very, very detailed records. one of the first records we historians use are lemger books planters and enslavers had where they kept records of day to day values of enslaved people, the work they were doing, the weather, the crops, how much they were picking if they were picking cotton. most planners did or they would
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group them by saying five slaves doing this, seven doing this particular task, these people in this field. we have this information about what they were doing and also their evaluations were also in the records as well. >> what kind of prices were they putting on these people? >> so from 0 to 10 when they were young most boys and girls had the same value. and around that in the 19th century most of them were priced around $100 to $200, which in today's money is a lot more than that. so when we're looking at the value of enslaved people we see in records we anywhere from $100 to $5,000 in the 19th century. but that in today's numbers are anywhere from $20,000 per person.
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the average enslaved person was sold four to five times in their lifetime. this means they were changing hands more than once. they were having new owners and new people they had to work with, and it changed the way they had to look at the institution of slavery as well. >> in what way? >> one, if you had a particular owner you were living with for most of your life and if you were being sold to someone else, it's a new community, you don't know the personalities and work rhythms so you have to connect and find out what that plantation was like or that estate or small farm was like. and you also might be dealing with the loss and separated from family members prior to that. you might be separated from a parent or uncle or aunt. and now it's a new community they have to figure out how to adjust to life in this new space. >> how did the slaves see themselves? do we know? and did they know their value -- the price people were putting on them in. >> yes. so enslaved people often made comments and we have these
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comments from a number of records from slave narratives, from personal papers, from abolitionist records, from newspapers and they'll talk about and they'll say things like my value was $600, but i didn't care. you know, the monetary value they put on my body was nothing to the value that i had for myself. and call that their soul value. it was a certain value that could not be cumodified. it could not be monetized that enslaved people felt that nobody could touch. and it didn't matter what the masters price was, it didn't matter the people who were arguing on the market scene, that didn't matter to them. what mattered was their soul, and they could care less if they commanded a high price or quote-unquote bargain. that didn't matter to them. >> reading those kinds of comments, what impact did that have on you? >> it had a really big impact.
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we did studies where we talked the enslaved community and we tried to get to their dinner tables, but we didn't use many quotes from them. what happens when we talk about the auction life from their perspective. now we're looking at asking these questions and looking for those answers, we're finding first person testimony of enslaved people sharing what they thought about their values, what they thought about the aucti auctioneer, about the owner and being traded. >> the title of your book, the price for the flesh, the value of slave from womb to grave. why from womb to grave? >> i was looking at how enslaved people are valued at every stage in their lives. and i noticed early on in the research enslaved people were priced before they were born. mothers, they would look at the
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future fertility of a woman and project hume children she could potentially have and how many healthy children she could potentially have. they were valued from preconception to what i argue postmortem. so they were being valued before they were born where mothers, there was a strong sort of distraction trying to understand womens menstrual cycles, how healthy they were, were their menstrual cycles regular or irregular. sometimes they would put a warranty on her uterus where they would guarantee this woman would have x number of children in x number of years, and we have cases in the legal record where people were sued because people didn't give birth. so this is very detailed records, very personal records in county court hows, that are posted on broad sides and fliers that were posted throughout the south with women and their names on it and comments about their
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fu fertility. >> astonishing how closely those owners paid attention and the details. >> this was a market where these were their products. these were human products, by the way. but these were from their perspective, they had to make sure they were maximizing their profit on laborers. and they wanted to make sure they happen making good investments so the return on their investment was worth the value they put forth to purchase them. >> any stories stand out from your research? >> i was talking about the soul value of enslaved people and that was the internal value they had for themselves. one of my favorite stories is of a story of a man named isaac who was planning a rebellion with a number of enslaved people. they were trying to find out who else was involved and he wouldn't tell anybody who it was, and they pressured him and asked questions and he kept saying take me, i'm the one,
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just take me. and they sent his minister who had baptized him and brought him to god, sent him to jail to have a conversation with him. they were praying together, they were crying and he said isn't god a god of the black and white, why am i held in chains, where's god in all this. the minister was so ashamed and didn't know what to say, he left. the next day isaac was on the gallows getting ready it be hung, they put the rope around his neck. he was standing there with number of other gentleman and they said do you have any final ones, and he said just take me, i'm the one. i will die a noble death if you just take me. and before they could pull the latch to open up the floor he lifted up his feet and hung himself. and i argue that's isaac's expression of his soul value. because he wanted to decide how he would die and the moment he would die. >> how do we know isaac's words?
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>> we know isaac's words from a newspaper article that was published by a reporter who was there at the jail and then at the execution. but we don't have -- it's quoted so we think that's what isaac said. what's beautiful about the end of the story is that his body was buried by a lagoon, and it looks like he had some wife and children that could not attend the execution and the next day they had put stones and flowers at his grave site and they said those fresh flowers were there every year until his wife passed away. another example of soul values. >> how are and why are comments of slaves being kept track of? >> the first war, the wpa, the narratives collected in the 1930s by the federal government, those were narratives where people were going throughout the south and interviewing enslaved people. those were the list living
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descendants of enslaved people, and they had recollections of what slavery was like when they were children or they had stories of their parents and grandparents. we also have narratives published as early as 1825 through 1880s that were done by abolitionist societies and other sponsors where people told their stories and then they were published later. >> the last part of your book title, the subtitle, building of a nation, what did you intend? >> what i tended with that was to think about enslaved people and how they contributed to our country, how we helped build a nation, how they helped clear land like they did in jamestown, virginia, how they established communities. and if wasn't for their labor i don't think the united states would be the nation we are today. >> what are you working on next? >> i'm completing my book with my colleague called a black womans history of the united states. it'll be published in 2020. >> tell us a little bit about it. >> so it's a general study for a
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wide audience on african-american womens experience in the united states from pre-1619 through today. so we're looking at women of afric afric afric african descent. and looking at their experiences throughout the united states and understanding their contributions and trying to uncover the stories of women we may have not heard of. >> tease the book. tell us a story that stands out to you. >> my favorite story is the opening of this woman who was a freed black woman who was part african and part indian and she petitioned -- she petitioned a political figure in mexico and asked if she could go on an expedition to help find new mexico. and she was granted permission, and she went on this journey and we think she made it to new mexico, so i think she was one of the first black women to come to the united states or comes to
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the united states later. >> thank you for the conversation. >> thank you for having me. i appreciate it. >> all week we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. lectures in history. american artifacts. real america, the civil war, oral histories, the presidency, and special event coverage about our nation history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on c-span 3. american history tv products are now available at the new c-span online store. go to c-span to see what's new for american history tv and check out all of the c-span products. >> sunday night on q&a theoreteral physicist author of
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"the future of humanity" talks about our destiny beyond earth and achieving digital imortality. >> now digital imortality takes everything known about you on the internet, your digital footprint, your credit card records, what movies you see, your videos, your pictures, your audiotapes and creates a profile that's digitized which will last forever. so when you go to the library of the future you will not take out a book about winston churchill, you'll talk to winston churchill. >> sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's q&a. >> next, a look at the district of columbia compensated emancipation act of 1862. the act freed about 3,100 slaves in the nation's capitol and compensated owners for each former slave. the panel also talked about the influence the act had


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