The History of American Slavery

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Description

With the help of acclaimed historians and writers, Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore the history of American slavery and examine how the institution came to shape our country’s politics, economy, and culture. (This series was originally published in 2015, thanks to the support of Slate Plus.)

Episode Date
9: How Did American Slavery End?
3655
This episode was originally released in 2015. In Episode 9, the finale episode of the History of American Slavery, hosts Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie discuss emancipation. They examine how emancipation was more a process than an overnight change, and they compare the different ways it was enacted in the South and throughout the United States. They also discuss how people sought to rebuild their lives and reunite their families once they had achieved freedom from slavery. They begin the episode by remembering the life of Rose Herera (1835–unknown). See this episode's complete show notes. This series was made possible by Slate Plus members. To support more work like this at Slate, sign up for Slate Plus now.
Feb 01, 2020
8: Runaway Railroad
3413
This episode was originally released in 2015. In Episode 8 of the History of American Slavery, hosts Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie discuss the small minority of people who escaped slavery during the 1850s and 1860s and the people who helped them along the way. They examine our evolving and sometimes selective historical memory of the Underground Railroad. They also explore the legal environment that confronted fugitives and their helpers and how it changed after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Jamelle and Rebecca begin the episode by looking at the life of John Parker (1827–1900). See this episode's complete show notes. This series was made possible by Slate Plus members. To support more work like this at Slate, sign up for Slate Plus now.
Feb 01, 2020
7: To Do No Harm?
3165
This episode was originally released in 2015. In Episode 7 of the History of American Slavery, hosts Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore how science and medicine interacted with slavery in antebellum America. They discuss how doctors such as J. Marion Sims used human experimentation on enslaved subjects to help advance the practice of medicine. And they explore how scientific racism, as practiced by doctors such as Samuel Cartwright, was used to justify slaveholder ideology. Jamelle and Rebecca begin their discussion by looking at the life of Anarcha (1828?-unknown), an enslaved women who endured more than 34 experimental surgeries that culminated in a path-breaking medical discovery. See this episode's complete show notes. This series was made possible by Slate Plus members. To support more work like this at Slate, sign up for Slate Plus now.
Feb 01, 2020
6: When Cotton Became King
2800
This episode was originally released in 2015. In Episode 6 of the History of American Slavery, hosts Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore the rise of the antebellum cotton economy in the early decades of the 19th century. They discuss how the growth of the cotton industry transformed the American system of slavery and the lives of enslaved people. And they discuss slavery’s relationship with the development of modern American capitalism. They begin the episode by discussing the life of Charles Ball, who wrote about his experience working on a cotton plantation in his autobiography, Slavery in the United States: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Charles Ball. See this episode's complete show notes. This series was made possible by Slate Plus members. To support more work like this at Slate, sign up for Slate Plus now.
Feb 01, 2020
5: What Happened When Slaves Rebelled
2982
This episode was originally released in 2015. In Episode 5 of the History of American Slavery, hosts Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore the slave rebellions—both real and imagined—that unfolded during the settlement of the 19th-century American frontier. They discuss the largest slave insurgency in American history, Louisiana’s 1811 German Coast rebellion. And then they explore an imagined slave revolt in Mississippi and the heady, boom-time conditions that led Mississippi slaveholders into panic and hysteria. Jamelle and Rebecca begin Episode 5 by remembering the life of Charles Deslondes (unknown–1811), a leader of the German Coast uprising. See this episode's complete show notes. This series was made possible by Slate Plus members. To support more work like this at Slate, sign up for Slate Plus now.
Feb 01, 2020
4: The Family Life of Enslaved People
3468
This episode was originally released in 2015. In Episode 4 of the History of American Slavery, hosts Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore the shape of family life on the slave plantations of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They make a case study of one famous plantation, Monticello, the Virginia estate owned by Thomas Jefferson. Then they take a closer look at how slavery tore families apart, and the emotional history of that trauma. They begin their conversation by remembering the life of Joseph Fossett (1780–1858), a Monticello blacksmith. Upon Jefferson’s death, his last will and testament granted freedom to Fossett, but not to Fossett’s family. It would be 10 years before Joseph could reunite with his wife and 10 children. See this episode's complete show notes. This series was made possible by Slate Plus members. To support more work like this at Slate, sign up for Slate Plus now.
Feb 01, 2020
3: The Hypocrisy of America’s Revolution
2993
This episode was originally released in 2015. In Episode 3 of the History of American Slavery, hosts Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore the shape of slavery during America’s Revolutionary War. They discuss how the enlightenment ideas that helped found our government both inhibited and encouraged the spread of American slavery. They also talk about the divergent ways the early Northern and Southern states handled slavery in their courts. And they begin their conversation by remembering the life of Elizabeth Freeman (1742?-1829), an enslaved servant whose victory in one of the first “freedom suits” helped lead to the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts. See this episode's complete show notes. This series was made possible by Slate Plus members. To support more work like this at Slate, sign up for Slate Plus now.
Feb 01, 2020
2: Inside the Slave Ship
2893
This episode was originally released in 2015. In episode 2 of the History of American Slavery, hosts Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore the shape of slavery during the late 18th century. They talk about the heyday of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the birth of the British abolitionist movement. They begin their discussion by remembering the remarkable life of Olaudah Equiano, 1745?–1797. See this episode's complete show notes. This series was made possible by Slate Plus members. To support more work like this at Slate, sign up for Slate Plus now.
Feb 01, 2020
1: The Terrible Transformation
2536
This episode was originally released in 2015. Slavery in America started out pretty bad in the 17th century. White colonists made it way, way worse in the 18th. What made this “terrible transformation” possible? In Episode 1 of the History of American Slavery, hosts Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore how hereditary, race-based slavery took shape in colonial America. They begin their discussion by remembering the life of Anthony Johnson (1600?–70). This series was made possible by Slate Plus members. To support more work like this at Slate, sign up for Slate Plus now.
Feb 01, 2020