In the process, he punctures many myths that have sought to downplay slavery's horrors or detach slavery from America's DNA. But they’re a set of voices who are refusing to accept a story that says that what the survivors of slavery endured in the cotton fields has nothing to do with the wealth of the US today or the disproportion of the wealth between white people in the US on average and the wealth of black people in the US on average. So we see that people are forced to work from dawn to dusk, often with direct white supervision, and those who stop working are yelled at to continue to work. It wasn’t made as efficiently by slaves as free people could have made it, but what in fact we now know is that enslaved people made cotton more efficiently every single year and they made it not by choice — they made it more efficiently not by choice, but because they were forced to by a system of torture.”. Frederick Douglass gets told after he escapes from slavery that he needs to be charismatic, not intellectual. There’s a debate about what is the causal factor in this increase, and I am okay with saying it’s both. In Desmond’s words, slavery “helped turn a poo “The slavery economy of the US South is deeply tied financially to the North, to Britain, to the point that we can say that people who were buying financial products in these other places were in effect owning slaves, and were extracting money from the labor of enslaved people,” says Edward E. Baptist, a historian at Cornell University and the author of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. As overseers and plantation owners managed a forced-labor system aimed at maximizing efficiency, they interacted with a network of bankers and accountants, and took out lines of credit and mortgages, all to manage America’s empire of cotton. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today, from as little as $3. By JOHN CLEGG from jacobinmag.com In a New York Times Magazine article this month, Matthew Desmond provided an overview of recent work by historians of capitalism who argue that slavery was foundational to American growth and economic development in the nineteenth century. And largely due to the resistance of enslaved people and some changes in ideologies, you see the beginnings of the gradual end of slavery in the North. Slavery, particularly the cotton slavery that existed from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the Civil War, was a thoroughly modern business, one that was continuously changing to maximize profits. And that backlash plays a role in burying these types of questions. And this depends on having white voices telling the story. And reproductive labor is not just women bearing children, but all of the work that goes into raising a child into an adult. … They are forced to do this kind of labor and learn this kind of labor and this all happens under the threat of violence and punishment if they don’t learn how to do it fast enough. This is work largely done by women, but also by family networks, and communities in general. There’s a sort of quintessentially modern idea that “if we enumerate how much people work, we can evaluate that labor better, and then we can demand more labor from them,” and that’s what happens [during cotton slavery]. But before we talk about those changes, can you discuss what slavery looks like before the true advent of cotton? And pretty quickly the price for cotton rises dramatically. In the book, Baptist argues that modern capitalism still contains many of the remnants of slavery and America’s current economy is still influenced by the exploitation of slaves. To grow the cotton that would clothe the world and fuel global industrialization, thousands of young enslaved men and women — the children of stolen ancestors legally treated as property — were transported from Maryland and Virginia hundreds of miles south, and forcibly retrained to become America’s most efficient laborers. At the time of the Declaration of Independence, slavery is legal in every one of the newly created 13 states. As a white historian, the best thing I can do to disturb that is to bring nonwhite voices to the forefront in how I tell the story. Staying with that last point about the threat of violent punishment, you write about how, as the desire to increase cotton profits grows, enslavers focus on how to wring more and more profit from the labor of the enslaved. Around the Globe myths, but all of the day, that is... 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