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Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery
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Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  174 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
Slavery in the South has been documented in volumes ranging from exhaustive histories to bestselling novels. But the North’s profit from–indeed, dependence on–slavery has mostly been a shameful and well-kept secret . . . until now.

In this startling and superbly researched new book, three veteran New England journalists de-mythologize the region of America known for tolera
Paperback, 269 pages
Published August 15th 2006 by Ballantine Books (first published September 27th 2005)
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James Durney
Aug 05, 2009 rated it liked it
This is history for people who do not read history and have little intention to change. The authors are reporters who were horrified to find slavery existed in Connecticut. After that startling discovery, they proceeded to establish that slavery was common in America. Next, they made the equally startling discovery that Northerners profited from both the slave trade and dealing with slaveholders. I feel that this was news to educated people is the most upsetting part of the book.
This book attemp
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this book a few years ago, and found myself thinking about it last night, after watching a couple of episodes of a television series on the American Revolution that my husband is very into at the moment. This book contains facts which may be shocking to many (such as the fact the Rhode Island was the state with the largest slave trade) but isn't quite as surprising to those who have studied the history of economics and who know how deeply the slave trade was embedded into the worldwide ec ...more
David Rooker
Dec 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Do you think you know a little about the depredations imposed upon African Americans. Read this book, and I assure you that you will learn something new about the cruelty of our American "extractive" culture. You'll come to appreciate just how much of our wealth was created through forced labor. You'll learn about the "scientific" suppositions about race in the 19th century that combined with religious prejudice indicted people of African descent as inherently sub-human - and you'll likely be su ...more
Oct 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
It's interesting to go back and read true history. This book did a great job at examining how deep slavery was entrenched into our entire society, and how so many attempted to keep it that way.
Darrick Taylor
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The book is a fine example of what non-academic history can do well. Based mostly on secondary sources, but also on published primary documents (and even a few manuscripts), it documents the ways in which the Northern British colonies and then Northern American states were complicit in the slavery system--mostly through economics. Slavery was legal in Northern colonies/states till the early 19th (in the early 18th century, South Carolina had the highest slave population in the colonies, but New ...more
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We have all heard about Harriet Beecher Stowe's book, UNCLE TOM'S CABIN, but how many of us have actually read it? That Ophelia, from the North, went to Louisiana to visit her cousin, Augustine, and harped at him about keeping slaves. Yet Augustine noticed how she could not bring herself to touch Topsy. He challenged her to take Topsy and educate her. She did, plus some other slaves. She took them North on her return and freed and educated them, but then sent them back to Africa. Had any of them ...more
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Unsurprisingly, I never learned about anything included in this book about the North's investments in slavery in my 16 years of education in Massachusetts. How we view and understand history (and thus the present) is based not only on what we're taught, but also was is left out. This is a quick read, and should be required of everyone--New Englanders, who self-righteously paint themselves as always having been on the right side of history, in particular.
Annie Oosterwyk
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Three journalists from The Hartford Courant have researched the North's participation in slavery. Mills, rum and molasses, shipping, and the ivory trade all relied on slave labor and yet we have the perception that the Northern states were the good guys. This book clearly presents how interconnected the economies of the United States were and how no one is blameless.
This is well written and very interesting. It is of special interest to me as many of the examples are local.
Sally Ponce
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Eye opening book on how slavery built America
Daniel O'Dunne
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every American, no matter where he or she is on the political spectrum, needs to read this book.
Chris Demer
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book! Eminently readable, it connects the dots we all knew about but never seem to get connected in history books. The North were the good guys right? While the Southerners bought and sold slaves and benefited greatly financially. Not so fast.

This well researched book, clarifies the complicity of the north, from the ship building in Rhode Island (slave ships) to captains of said ships to the benefits of cheap cotton from the south for their textile mills. Cotton built the nor
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
While I knew most the basics of Northern states' slaveowning and its eventual phaseout, and that, pre-1807, Northern shippers/sailing captains made plenty of money on the slave trade, the post-1807 info, as well as the way this book pulled so many things together, is still very good.

That includes the financial tentacles of the New York Cotton Exchange and the economic impact of cotton itself, with the South producing 2/3 the world's cotton and exporting half of that total. Those two tidbits alon
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly eye-opening account of the Northern economic history of slavery. Much of the blame/fault/shame of the practice is placed upon the South and yet the North profited enormously by its continuation. Very readable history. I was especially intrigued by the chapter on the ivory trade (piano keys and billiard balls).

By the authors:
Whatever readers may make of the evidence of Northern complicity, our own reactions to it varied.

One of us was most struck by the suffering of enslaved American
Linda Lombri
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: linda-lombri
This book was an eye opener and shocker because it filled in many blanks in American history for me not taught in schools. Or perhaps you have to be a college major in American History to be privy to the facts of American slavery in the North. The worst part was finding out that our economy and that of Europe was dependent on the cycle of US slavery, southern US cotton fields, northern textile mills, US and EU markets for our textile products and back to US slavery. Although I am happy my family ...more
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Interesting book, Interesting concept. The book covers the "complicity" of the Northern states in slavery and the slave trade. Its funny to read history and even today, if you are from the North you have extra credit because the South has a black cloud (no pun intended) hanging over their heads. The truth is the North benefited from slavery at every step of the way.

The book covers the financial benefits to the North from the moment of the trade and bringing in the slaves as well as the output f
Dec 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, race
This book was cool because it wasn't written by history or race nerds, but by some journalists who wanted to investigate the history of their own complicity. It was way too short to cover this huge fucking topic, though. I did learn that for every pound of ivory "harvested" from an African elephant, somebody died--at least two milion people, but probably more. Jesus Christ.
Dec 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Everyone should read this - a disturbing account of the money making machine that was slavery in America. Northerners who look down on the South would to well to read this to learn how the wealth of the whole country, north and south, was built on the backs of people stolen out of Africa.
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, how history is so distructived and how people view the north and south in its misery and glory. The south with slave labor and the north using that labor to gain wealth on the backs of others.
Jul 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Such an INTERESTING view of slavery and situations leading up to the Civil War from and relating to the northern side rather than the south. Especially enlightening after my recent book club experience and the civil war issues fresh in my mind. It wasn't purely a southern institution, y'all.
Eric Kiser
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eye-opening. The legacy of slavery is something all Americans must grapple with, not just Southerners.
Mar 17, 2012 added it
Recommends it for: Lee Family Members
Recommended to Jennifer by: Howard Powell
This book includes history of my husband's great great grandfather, Ward Lee. He came to America on the last slave ship, "The Wanderer".
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A comprehensive look at the history of Slavery in the Northern United States. I enjoyed the attention to detail. The photos and copies of original documents really brought this history to life.
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Examines aspects the North's intimate involvement with American slavery from the 1500's through the 19th century. Written by 3 journalists, it is eminently readable and well-researched.
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book illuminated and inverted my understanding of the United States and the principles on which it was founded.
Marjon Otero
Jul 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I had to read this for B school, and am so happy I had to. An easy read, heart breaking and eye opening. A must read for a north easterner.
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Jul 27, 2016
Carolyn Tuttle
rated it it was amazing
Jun 02, 2013
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May 29, 2007
Blair Daniels III
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Oct 28, 2016
Dave Blair
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Jun 04, 2013
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