Book Review: Inhuman Bondage

September 14th, 2015 Comments off

slaveryI just finished reading Pulitzer Prize winner David Brion Davis’ Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New world and I glad that I did. As a historical document about that “peculiar institution” in the United States, Davis writing and research are nothing less than spectacular.

starsDavis examines many facets of slavery including religion, tradition and capitalism. As the reader moves seamlessly through each chapter it becomes clear that the entire concept of slavery runs deeper than most know people realize. The writer covers centuries of slavery from the dawn of man up to the present problems of sexual slavery infecting the country. Early slavery tended to use captured enemies as slaves

In fact, most of the Africans sold to white slavers were prisoners of war, a winning proposition for those selling African blacks thereby ridding themselves of an enemy forever and receiving compensation. Africa has always been an amalgamation of ununited nation.  This separ
ateness allowed slave traders not to rob a nation of its people and asserts, but according to the author, it’s most valuable possessions such as leaders, planners and the elite classes.

However. The Atlantic slave trade had Christian and Islamic finger prints all over and rarely for the better. Northern Africa slaves were frequently kidnapped or if they resisted were exterminated by Islamic raiders. However, it was the Curse of Ham that Christians used to cast African blacks into less than human status, even though it was not Ham’s sin, but Shemeth’s. Davis also refers to the Mark of Cain being used to strip African blacks of their humanity as well. Apparently, Islam also found this explanation to be useful.

Jesus never spoke a word about slavery, but his disciple Paul had strong options regarding slavery and according to Davis and no compunction about telling others how to handle their slaves. Additionally, the writer points out how the Jews were commanded to bring their slaves with them out of Egypt as the Jews could not make slaves of their own people.

Nevertheless. Davis insists that the racialist of slavery provided religious justification for the buying and selling of African blacks and the beginning of chattel slavery. According to the author, it took nearly 300 year during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries before abolitionists began to surface saying that owning a slave was wrong if they are not converted to Christianity. That was the beginning in both England and the New Country.

After the American Revolution, slavery was the economic engine of The South as cotton was a worldwide cash crop and in demand. Many Southerners became rich by having the free labor of slaves, but, northern abolitionist were making it difficult to own slaves. In addition, successful slave uprisings in Haiti had slave owners under extreme pressure. From the beginning Northern States and Southern States had were quite different as the North became industrialized while the South was an agrarian society and used to owning slaves do back breaking labor.

Several things pushed the country into Civil War, including the Fugitive Slave Act, the Kansas-Nebraska Act
and the Missouri Compromise which has also been labeled the the Sellout of 1850. From there, most of the story is well-know. Except for interactions between Southern white and African American as Davis says lasted into the 1950s.

If you are interested in learning the minutia of the slave trade, Inhuman Bondage is excellent research book written in a style for almost reader. Reasons for many things that happen today in politics, general and social interactions are contained within this book’s pages. I highly recommend it.


Donald R Barbera

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