The Half Has Never Been Told

13 Sep

A new book by Edward E. Baptist–The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism–is making some waves. James Bratt, historian at Calvin College, discusses some of this in his blog post at The Twelve.

The main point Bratt and apparently author Baptist draw regarding slavery is both economic and moral: if “market mechanisms and market solutions are always best,” as at least some have said and still say, then doesn’t that divinize profit and markets and thereby justify slavery–and other things?

(Apropos justifications of slavery, Bratt and Baptist bring to mind the recent film 12 Years a Slave. In the film–based on Solomon Northup’s account of his enslavement–the justification for slavery was religious as well as economic.)

Bratt concludes his post with these discomforting words:

God is not mocked—Lincoln said it in his epochal Second Inaugural, and Martin Luther King, Jr., along with Malcolm X and H. Rap Brown, preached it again in the 1960s. Ta-Nehisi Coates proclaimed it again in The Atlantic this past summer. God is not mocked, and we will not be healed and well, nor genuinely prosper as a nation, until we figure out some way to pay back the debt and the damage that Edward Baptist so powerfully explains in this book. It’s the other half that has to be told.

You can read Bratt’s entire post here: the12 – James Bratt – The Half Has Never Been Told.

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