History Is Lunch: Joshua Rothman, “The Ledger and the Chain”

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On Wednesday, September 8, Joshua Rothman will discuss his new book The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America as part of the History Is Lunch series. Due to increasing COVID-19 cases, History Is Lunch has temporarily shifted to a virtual-only format. The hour-long programs are broadcast from the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum building. MDAH livestreams videos of the program at noon on Wednesdays on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MDAHOfficial/and the videos are also posted on the department’s YouTube channel.
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.”