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On the eve of the Civil War, the estimated value of the U.S. enslaved population exceeded $3 billiontriple that of investments nationwide in factories, railroads, and banks combined, and worth more even than the South's lucrative farmland. Not only an object to be traded and used, the slave was also a kind of currency, a form of value that anchored the market itself. And this value was not destroyed in the war. Slavery still structured social relations and cultural production in the United States more than a century after it was formally abolished. As  Black Market reveals, slavery’s engine of capital accumulation was preserved and transformed, and the slave commodity survived emancipation. Through both archival research and lucid readings of literature, art, and law, from the plight of the Fourteenth Amendment to the myth of the cowboy, this book breaks open the icons of liberalism to expose the shaping influence of slavery's political economy in America after 1865. Ultimately, Black Market shows how a radically incomplete and fundamentally failed abolition enabled the emergence of a modern nation-state, in which slavery still determinedand now goes on to determineeconomic, political, and cultural life.

Black Market starts a new phase in the social history of American capitalism… skillfully engages this debate in a way that economists and historians have missed.”

Journal of American History

“This vital book instantiates the place of a ruthless criticism within the ambit of abolitionist practice.”

American Literary History

“A bold and brilliant account of American slavery's tenacious afterlife."

Walter Johnson,

Harvard University


"Defines a new moment in the study of the history of capitalism in the United States and announces the arrival of an important scholar…”

David Roediger,

University of Kansas

“Solid archival sleuthing and dazzling close readings… A major accomplishment in the field of American studies."

Stephen Best,

University of California, Berkeley

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