Soul, By Walter Johnson Essay

797 Words Nov 23rd, 2015 4 Pages
During the antebellum period more than two million slaves were sold in interstate, local, and state-ordered sales. Yet historians have devoted surprisingly little attention to the seamy slave pens and slave yards where families routinely were torn apart and human beings were bartered, evaluated, examined, fondled, priced, and sold. There they became persons with a price. Soul by Soul by Walter Johnson tells the story of slavery in antebellum America by moving away from the cotton plantations and into the slave market itself, the heart of the domestic slave trade. Soul by soul takes readers inside the New Orleans slave market, the largest in the nation, where 100,000 men, women, and children were packaged, priced, and sold, Johnson transforms the statistics of this chilling trade into the human drama of traders, buyers, and slaves, negotiating sales that would alter the life of each (Johnson). In Soul by Soul, Johnson reconstructs the operations of those antebellum slave markets on the basis of an exhaustive study of court records, the testimony of former slaves, financial documentation of the trade, and slaveholders ' writings. Johnson’s focus is on the New Orleans market, the largest in the South, whose operation he documents in detail. His most important evidence are court records arising out of exhibition laws that governed the circumstances under which a buyer could return his human merchandise if the seller had either misrepresented or failed to disclose critical…

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