tv Economics of Slavery CSPAN August 24, 2019 8:12am-8:31am EDT
a commemorative ceremony at 9:30 with governor ralph northam, senators mark warner and tim kaine and house of delegates speaker kirkland cox. at six clock p.m., hear the story of the civil war told in 56 minutes. and sunday at six clock p.m., american artifacts takes you to the museum and history and culture for african-american history from reconstruction through civil rights. this weekend on american history tv on c-span3. >> next, we talk with daina ramey berry about the economics of slavery. she is the author of "the price for their pound of flesh: the value of the enslaved, from womb to grave, in the building of a nation." we recorded the interview at the organization of american historians' annual meeting in philadelphia.
host: 2019 marks the anniversary of the first african-american sold into slavery in the united states. where were they from? daina: they came from different parts of west africa. they were taken on a ship and captured by the dutch, been -- then captured again off a portuguese ship. when you look at the journey, there were two different points when they were on ships. host: how do we know about them? daina: we know about this from ship records. we also know about this from the virginia records. we know very little information about them but we have bits and pieces. >> what do we know? we know that they arrived and they were not listed as end slaved -- listed as enslaved, they were servants. we know that they came and they were pretty sick when i got off the ship. they lived in virginia. some of them had families and were the first generations of
african-americans in this country. host: who were they? guest: there were two or three women and the rest of them were men. they had their own families and they established their own communities in virginia. host: and their ages? daina: they were middle ages, 17 to 24. host: how did slavery expand from that point? daina: slavery expanded gradually. it was not an institution initially. but as time went on they saw source"ts were a "good of labor. i don't like using that phrase. but they cannot run away, they were surviving, unlike native people, who they did try to in slave. they decided that africans were the labor of choice. slavery was an institution that came gradually over time. host: what pushed it to become an institution over time? daina: clearing land, finding crops.
to bacher -- tobacco, later on sugar, rice, and other crops , that they could use to produce the goods that would be sold in other parts of the world. in 1793, two generations later, the invention of the cotton gin. and the opening of new lands, the louisiana purchase. you had lands that had richer soil that produced more and more goods. you needed more labor, so they continued to bring in more people. host: is that what you meant by the economics of slavery? daina: yes. the economics of slavery has to do with the technology, the crops, the technology that was fuelingalism that was the markets and enslaved people, the desire to purchase and sell and trade to people was also part of the economics of slavery. host: and they put a price on the slave.
>> yes. how did they do that and why, why was it necessary? guest: every enslaved person was given a value. that was often done for tax purposes. they had to keep track of who they owned. and enslaved people were given a specific value based on the amount of work they could do in a given year. or on what kind of labor they thought they could do at the time. and every year, that number would sometimes change, if they were sick, if they injured themselves. it was a monetary value, it was an appraisal. at the market they were then given a sale price, or a market value. that was something that was bartered and a value that was used to trade when people were negotiating. and those values were higher than the appraised value, but the market value was based on an ensalved person on a particular day. host: are there records? what kind of records show these transactions? daina: one of the first records that we historians use our
are legible items that planters and slavers had. they kept records of day-to-day value of enslaved people, the work they were doing, the weather, the crop, how much rice they were planting, tobacco, wheat. most planters did. or they would group them by five slaves doing this, seven enslaved doing a particular task. these people were in this field, so they were very, very meticulous records. we had information about what they were doing. in thetheir valuations records as well. host: what kind of prices records as well. were they putting on these people? daina: from zero to 10, when they were young, most boys and girls had the same value. in the 19th century, most were priced around $100 to $200. which, in today's money, it's a lot more than that. so we look at the value of enslaved people, we see anywhere from $100 to $5,000 in the 19th century. but that in today's number is
anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000 per person. these were very expensive human commodities. host: how often were they sold and bought? daina: the average enslaved person was sold four to five times in a lifetime. it means they were having new owners and new people they had to work with, new families they had to get adjusted to, and it changed the way they looked at the institution of slavery as well. host: in what way? daina: one had a particular owner you live with most of your life, then if you were sold, you don't know their personalities, you really have to connect and find out what that plantation is light and the estate -- what the estate of that small farm is like. and you also had to develop by being away from family members you have lived with. you may have been separated from parents, a cousin, uncle or
aunt. so now it is day new community, -- a new community, and they have to adjust to life in this new space. host: how did the slaves see themselves? did they know their value, the price that people were putting on them? guest: enslaved people often make comments. we have these from records. from slave narratives, from personal papers, from abolitionist records, from newspapers. you look at these comments from them, and they will say things like, "my value is $600, i do not care. the monetary value they put on my body was nothing to the value i had on myself." i call that the soul value. it was a certain value that could not be commodified. it could not be monetized. that enslaved people felt nobody could touch. and it didn't matter what the master's place was, people arguing at the markets, that did not matter to them.
what mattered was their soul. host: reading those kind of comments, what impact would that have on you? daina: it had a big impact. most of the scholarship on slavery, since the early 2000s, we did not think about what they thought. we did studies where we talked about the community and tried to get to the dinner table and what life was like in the cabins. but we did not use many quotes from them. what happened from their perspective. what happened while we talk about the auction block from their perspective. now we are looking at these questions and looking for answers. we are finding first person testimonies of enslaved people sharing about what they thought about the auctioneers, the owners, being on a ship or being traded. it is very useful information and is very personal. host: the title of your book, "the price for their pound of flesh: the value of the enslaved, from womb to grave, in
. why from "from womb to grave." guest: enslaved people were priced before they were born. they will look at the fertility of a woman and they would project how many children she could potentially have, and how many healthy children she could potentially have. and thinking about that, they were valued from preconception to postmortem. they were being valued before they were born. for mothers, there was a strong distraction trying to understand women's menstrual cycle, where there menstrual cycles regular or irregular? they would put a warranty on their uterus, guarantee this woman would have x number of children in an x number of years. if it did not happen, they would come to see you. -- sue you.
there were cases where they have legal records where they would sue you because women did not give birth. there were personal records in county courthouses. there were posted on flyers throughout the south with the women's names on it and comments about their fertility. host: astonishing how closely these owners paid attention, and the detail. daina: this was a market. and these were their products. these were human products, by the way, but they had to make sure they were maximizing the profits on their laborers, and they had to make sure they made good investments. so that the return on their investment would be worth the value they put forward to purchase them. host: any stories that stand out from your research? daina: what i talked about their internal value, their soul value. one of my favorite stories was the story of a man named isaac, who is planning a rebellion with other enslaved people.
somehow they found out about it and put him in jail. there were trying to find out -- they were trying to find out who else was involved in the planning of the uprising. he would not tell anybody, they pressured him, they asked questions and he kept saying, take me, i am the one. i am the one, take me. they sent his minister, who had baptized him and brought him to god, they sent him to the jail and had a conversation. they had a two hour or three hour conversation, they were praying together, they were crying. he said, is in god a god of the -- isn't god a god of the black and the white? he said, why am i held in chains? where is god? the minister was so ashamed that he left, and the next day, isaac was on the gallows getting ready to be hung, they put the rope around his neck. they asked if he had any final words and he said, "just take me, i am the one, i will die a noble death if you just take me." and before they could release
the latch on the floor, he lifted up his feet and hung himself. i argue that is isaac's expression of his soul value because he decided when he would die, how he would die and the moment he died. host: how do we know isaac's words? daina: we know from a newspaper article that was published by a reporter that was at the jail and the execution. it is quoted, and we think that is what he said. what is beautiful is that he was buried by a lagoon. it looks like he had a wife and children that could not attend the execution. the next day they put flowers at his grave site, they said those fresh flowers were there every year until his wife passed away. another example of soul value. host: how are and why are comments by slaves being kept track of? how can we find this information?
daina: a couple of different ways that we have enslaved narratives. the workers progress administration of narratives were collected in the 1930's by the government. people were going throughout the south and interviewing slave people. those were the last living descendents, people in their 80's, 90's and they had recollection of what it was like when they were children. or they had stories from their parents and grandparents. those are firsthand accounts. we also have narratives that were published in 1825 through 1880 that were done by abolitionist societies and other sponsors, where people told their stories and they were published later. host: the last part of your book, the subtitle, "building of a nation," what did you intend? daina: what i intended with that was to think about slave people and how they built the nation. how they cleared the land like they did in jamestown, virginia, how they established
communities, and if it was not for their labor, i will think the united states would be what we are today. host: what are you working on next? daina: i am completing a book with my colleague called "a black woman's history in the united states." it will be published by beacon press in 2020. host: tell us a little about it. daina: it is study on african-americans women's experience in the united states from pre-1619 through today. we are looking at women of african dissent who came with some of the spanish explorers, and came into new mexico. we are looking at women in spanish florida and new york, and looking at their experiences throughout the united states, and understanding their contributions, and trying to uncover the stories of women we may not have heard of. host: tell us what stands out to you? daina: my favorite story is the opening story of woman named isabel de lavera. she was a free black woman who was part african and part indian.
she petitioned the political figure in mexico and asked if she could go on an exhibition to help find new mexico. she was granted permission and went on this journey. we think she made it to new mexico. we think she was one of the first black women that came to the united states. host: daina berry, thank you for the conversation. daina: thank you for having me. i appreciate it. , an americannd tv special from virginia, where the first africans arrived in virginia for hundred years ago. our guest is cassondra alexander from norfolk state university, taking calls about the origin and history of slavery. coverage from port munro continues at 9:30 four a ceremony with governor ralph northam, senators mark warner and tim kaine and kirkland cox.
at 6:00 p.m. eastern, hear the story of the civil war told in 56 minutes by gary aleman. -- adelman. at six clock p.m. on sunday, american artifacts takes you to the virginia museum of history and culture for an exhibit on african-american history from reconstruction through civil rights. on the american history tv on c-span3. american history tv products are now available at the new c-span online store. go to c-span store.org to see what is new for american history tv and check out all of the c-span products. >> sunday night on q&a, theoretical physicist michio talks about our destiny beyond
earth and achieving digital immortality. takesital immortality everything known about you on the internet. your digital footprint, your credit card records, what movies you have seen, what winds you like to buy, what countries you visit. your pictures, your audio type -- audiotapes and creates a profile which will last forever. when you go to the library of the future, you will not take out a book about winston churchill, you will talk to winston churchill. >> sunday night at >> in the moment we will be live at point comfort, virginia. in english privateers ship there, the first african ship. cassandra newby-alexander will take phone calls and tweets