Book Review: The Half Has Never Been Told

Tangents USA

Cover Photo:
Douglas, Aaron. Aspects of Negro Life: An Idyll of the Deep South. Mural. 1934. Oil on Canvas. Source:

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. By Edward E. Baptist. New York: Basic Books, 2014. pp. xxvii, 498. $35.00.

Cornell professor Edward E. Baptist opens his magnificent new work, The Half Has Never Been Told, with the assertion that the historical academy of the early twentieth century was “openly racist” (xvii). Baptist therefore implies that The Half Has Never Been Told is an act of historiographic penance, rectifying the academy’s past sin of whitewashing American slavery. He intends to dispel three longstanding misconceptions about slavery to which most historians have subscribed. First, slavery would have inevitably ended; second, Southern slavery was inefficient and unprofitable, out of step with the North’s industrialized economy; and third, the worst crime of slavery was the…

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