Reckoning with Slavery

Gender, Kinship, and Capitalism in the Early Black Atlantic

Reckoning with Slavery

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 12 illustrations Published: June 2021

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > U.S. History

In Reckoning with Slavery Jennifer L. Morgan draws on the lived experiences of enslaved African women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to reveal the contours of early modern notions of trade, race, and commodification in the Black Atlantic. From capture to transport to sale to childbirth, these women were demographically counted as commodities during the Middle Passage, vulnerable to rape, separated from their kin at slave markets, and subject to laws that enslaved their children upon birth. In this way, they were central to the binding of reproductive labor with kinship, racial hierarchy, and the economics of slavery. Throughout this groundbreaking study, Morgan demonstrates that the development of Western notions of value and race occurred simultaneously. In so doing, she illustrates how racial capitalism denied the enslaved kinship and affective ties while simultaneously relying on kinship to reproduce and enforce slavery through enslaved female bodies.


“Jennifer L. Morgan examines the transition to racialized slavery in the early modern Atlantic world with innovative research methods and original analysis. She brilliantly accounts for the emergence of an unholy alliance between a novel proficiency with numbers and the hierarchical classification of human difference, which helped to make kinship into a commodity. This is essential reading for anyone who wonders how black humanity ceased to matter to some, and why centuries later we must still proclaim the worth of black lives.” — Vincent Brown, author of Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War

“Jennifer L. Morgan makes an original, innovative, and creative intervention in the study of race and gender that establishes the groundwork necessary for revising our knowledge of the systems of trade and the commodification of peoples in the nineteenth century. Reckoning with Slavery is essential reading for anyone in the social sciences and the humanities who wants to understand the formation of the modern world. A major work.” — Hazel V. Carby, author of Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jennifer L. Morgan is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at New York University, author of Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery, and coeditor of Connexions: Histories of Race and Sex in America.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Refusing Demography  1
1. Producing Numbers: Reckoning with the Sex Ration in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1500–1700  29
2. "Unfit Subjects of Trade": Demographic Logics and Colonial Encounters  55
3. "To Their Great Commoditie": Numeracy and the Production of African Difference  110
4. Accounting for the "Most Excruciating Torment": Transatlantic Passages  141
5. "The Division of the Captives": Commerce and Kinship in the English Americas  170
6. "Treacherous Rogues": Locating Women in Resistance and Revolt  207
Conclusion  245
Bibliography  257
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1414-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1323-5