Unless you’ve had your head buried under a rock for the past couple of weeks, you’ve read the disturbing statements from rapper Kanye West. First, the College Dropout praised the racist rhetoric spewing, Donald Trump. Secondly, despite the fact that laws were created that subjected blacks to slavery, Mr. West theorized that slavery was a choice.
It’s no secret that if one does not pay attention to, or study, history and politics, he/she is bound to say something really stupid, and or, factually incorrect. Unfortunately, West has admitted to not reading books, so it should not come as a surprise that he’s widely misinformed on slavery.
With that, VIBE complied a brief list of books on slavery that Kanye–or anyone else interested in– should dig into. Over the years, there’s been much scholarship on the human bondage such as Many Thousands Gone (Ira Berlin), Incidents in the life of a Slave Girl (Harriet Jacobs), The Peculiar Institution (Kenneth Stamp), and many others. But this list is composed of some of the most recent scholarship on slavery in America.
Check them out below.
1. Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century
By Professor Tera W. Hunter
In Bound in Wedlock, Prof. Hunter examines marriages between slaves as well as marriages between freed blacks. She also reveals how married couples rejected Christian ideals of marriage, among other issues.
“Couples went to great lengths to find previous partners, not knowing whether they were dead or alive or whether they had remarried,” the historian previously told VIBE. “The deep love and affection of women and men for one another are revealed in these efforts. I decided that I needed to write about the period of slavery, as well as the period after emancipation, to encompass the entire nineteenth century to be able to fully capture what these couples were up against and what they achieved.”
While there have been stories told on slavery in the past, Hunter believes the intersection of those freed in the era of slavery should be studied. “I would like to see more research not just on slavery, per se, but on the era of slavery so that we also incorporate the lives of free blacks. We need to know more about what it meant to be a free black person in a slave society.”
Bound in Wedlock won the Mary Nickliss Prize in U.S. Women’s and/or Gender History from the Organization of American Historians in April 2018
2. The Price For Their Pound of Flesh
By Professor Daina Ramey Berry
In The Price For Their Pound of Flesh, Berry examines life insurance policies, slave trading records and ways in which slaves purposely decreased their value in an effort to lessen their chances of being sold.
“The purpose of this book is to trace how enslaved people were treated as commodities from before they were born until after they died,” Berry said to VIBE. “It looks at the monetary values placed on their bodies but also shows what they thought, felt and knew about themselves as human beings and tradable goods.”
Berry added more research on sexuality, sexual abuse, and how slaves interacted with Native Americans would contribute greatly to the field of research on slavery.
3: Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Pursuit of their Runaway Slave Ona Judge
By Professor Erica Armstrong Dunbar
This is a powerful story about a strikingly strong woman’s escape from captivity. When George Washington was elected president, he brought nine slaves, including Ona Judge, from his Mount Vernon residence to Philadelphia, the nation’s previous capital. However, Pennsylvania law required that slaves were set free after six months of living in the state. Led by greed, Washington sent his slaves back to Mount Vernon every six months only to bring them back to Pennsylvania. Denied her freedom, Judge decided to escape. Never Caught explores the intense search – led by America’s president to find his “property.”
4: Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology
By Professor Deidre Cooper Owens
In Medical Bondage, Prof. Cooper Owens shows how well-recognized doctors such as James Marion Sims, Nathan Bozemana, and John Peter Mettauer experimented medical procedures on enslaved women and labeled these women as “medical super bodies.”
During an interview with the award-winning blog, Black Perspectives, Prof. Owens said, “writing a comparative history that centers the medical lives of illiterate women who did not leave written records is an arduous undertaking. What aided me immensely in my methodological approach to research was my earlier training in African American Studies and Women’s Studies. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of these two fields, I was able to read sources such as census records that pivoted my focus from gathering statistical data to asking whether babies were born during experimental trials. Doing so allowed me to reveal another facet of the social world of enslaved gynecological patients that called into question the bio-ethical world of antebellum era slave-owning doctors that was appropriate to time and space.”
5: Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex and Sickness in the Middle Passage
By Sowande’ Mustakeem
Slavery at Sea examines the social conditions and human costs on slave ships. Mustakeem’s research unearths the social histories of slave, captains, sailors and surgeons as they traveled on slave ships. Mustakeen also offers insight on medical treatment, and the trauma and violence of human “commodities.”
For Black Perspectives, Jessica Marie Johnson, Assistant Professor of History and Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University, examined Slavery at Sea, writing: “First, Mustakeem meticulously traces Africans’ own experience of ‘unmaking’ as women, children, and men found themselves captive and ‘warehoused’ at ports, factories, and trading outposts on the continent itself. In this, Slavery at Sea is reminiscent of Michael Gomez’s iconic study, ‘Exchanging Our Country Marks,’ which demanded that scholars move the study of African American, African Diaspora, and slave trade histories from the port of origin on the coast to the ‘point of capture’ within West and West Central African societies on the continent itself.”
Johnson goes on the discuss the strategies of transporting African slaves as well as the roles played by investors, merchants, and ship captains in the Atlantic Slave trade.