Below is a press release from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History:
On September 8, 2021, Joshua Rothman discussed his new book The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America as part of the History Is Lunch series.
Slave traders trafficked and sold more than half a million enslaved people from the upper South of Virginia and North Carolina to the deep South of Mississippi and Louisiana. Although most histories of slavery in the United States treat those men as peripheral figures, they helped fuel the country’s growth and prosperity.
In The Ledger and the Chain Rothman traces the lives and careers of Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard, who built the largest and most powerful slave-trading operation in U.S. history. “These men were far from social outcasts,” Rothman said. “They were rich and widely respected businessmen, and their company sat at the center of capital flows connecting southern fields to northeastern banks.”
Most Blessed of the Patriarchs author Annette Gordon-Reed wrote: “The story of the international slave trade is well known to many. Much less known are the workings of the domestic slave trade in the United States that sent tens of thousands of enslaved African Americans from the upper South to the cotton and sugar fields in the deep South. With exhaustive research and piercing insight, Joshua Rothman’s The Ledger and the Chain brings that history alive through the stories of three men who sat at the nexus between southern cotton producers and northern financial institutions. As the tragic legacies of these men are still with us, this book should be read by all who are interested in our current racial predicament.”
Joshua D. Rothman is professor of history and chair of the University of Alabama department of history. He earned his BA at Cornell University and his MA and PhD, both in history, from the University of Virginia. In addition to The Ledger and the Chain Rothman is the author of Notorious in the Neighborhood, Sex and Families Across the Color Line in Virginia, 1787-1861; Flush Times and Fever Dreams: A Story of Capitalism and Slavery in the Age of Jackson.
History Is Lunch is sponsored by the John and Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation for Mississippi. The weekly lecture series of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History explores different aspects of the state's past. The hour-long programs are broadcast from the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum building.