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Soul by Soul: Life in the Antebellum Slave Trade Market

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Soul by Soul: Life in the Antebellum Slave Trade Market

Category: Movie Review

Subcategory: History

Level: College

Pages: 3

Words: 825

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Soul by Soul: Life in the Antebellum Slave Trade Market
The book, “Soul by Soul,” was authored by Walter Johnson in 1999. “Soul by Soul” is a manifestation of the slavery in Antebellum America. The author not only focuses on the cotton plantations but, also on the slavery market. The author gives readers insight concerning the slave market situated in New Orleans. As a matter of fact, New Orleans market is the largest of all the markets. Johnson’s book emerges the first one to discuss slavery in American markets. The author gives a clear description of ways in which slaves were traded in America (Johnson 1-9). This paper will examine and explore “Life in the Antebellum Slave Trade Market” apropos of the book, “Soul by Soul”.
As prior mentioned, Johnson’s book has its focus on the slave market in New Orleans. To be precise, the discussion takes place before the emergence of the American Civil War. The author begins by writing about “The Chattel Principle,” which refers to the notion of altering the identity of slaves. Also, he compares this alteration to the ease of slaves price change in the markets. In the first chapter, the book outlines that the slave markets were highly protected. The slaves were treasured. Thus, they were duped to acknowledge themselves as valuable property. Johnson identifies the paternalism that was present in these markets. In fact, he emphasizes that the existence of those markets was based on economic matters. Chapter one of the book also describes the resistance of slaves during sales. As paternalism dictates, an individual’s freedom should not be restricted if they are not interfering with other people. For this reason, the slave traders negotiated with slaves before they were sold. These negotiations often ensured that the slaves did not resist the sales by running away (Johnson 19-44).
The Second Chapter, “Between the Prices,” focuses more on the ways in which slaves were bred. It depicts that slave traders were segregated apropos of sex but, sold using other additional criteria. The price of a slave would be dependent on weight, skin type and age, among others. Also, it is learned that slave trade greatly improved the reputation of slave traders. Regardless of their other occupations, they greatly upheld slave trade. As a matter of fact, traders treasured the slaves so much that they lived together with them. It is also necessary to realize that slave trade assisted the slaves to form new relationships and bonds with their fellow slaves (Johnson 45-77).
Chapter Three, “Making a World out of Slaves”, discusses more paternalism about the slave trade. The traders claimed that they engaged in the slave trade to cater to those slaves that did not have means of survival. Consequently, slave trade caused the traders to uphold themselves. They believed that selling of the slaves for the good of the latter was an honorable gesture. This chapter also gives insight concerning culture and traditions grasped by slave traders. The author describes that the traders focused on learning the cultures and traditions surrounding the slaves. As a result, the economical benefit was not the only reason for keeping slaves (Johnson 78-116).
The Fourth Chapter of the book, “Turning People into Products”, discusses slaves and the contribution of each one of them to the trade. Vetting of slaves took place in pens where traders would analyze them before embarking on sales and purchases. It is necessary to realize that the slave owners often overstated the capabilities of their slaves to attract more potential buyers. Additionally, they molded the slaves into those requisite qualities in the market (Johnson117-134).
Johnson’s Fifth Chapter, “Reading Bodies and Marking Race,” focuses on slavery and race, as the title suggests. The author also gives insight concerning bodily matters regarding slave trade. As a matter of fact, the book outlines that physical features of slaves were used to determine their abilities. The white folk often relied on the features to determine the suitable price of a given slave. For instance; they concluded that black folk with scars on their bodies were considered rebellious and uncontrollable. According to the traders, different skin pigments determined diverse capabilities (Johnson 135-161).
Chapter Six, “Acts of Sale,” delineates that slaves often rehearsed before sales. They also ventured in giving the best impression to secure the greatest buyer in the market. It was important for them to strive and attract the best buyer so as to live comfortably. The slaves highly adhered to their respective responsibilities during sales. Additionally, the slaves assisted the sellers in convincing the buyers, to avoid any form of the doubt from the latter (Johnson 162-188).
The last chapter of the book, “Life in the Shadow of the Slave Market”, discusses the changed lives of the sold slaves. They were under new masters, new environments as well as new rules and regulations. The newly bought slaves often grasped information about their new owners from the owner’s current slaves. They would observe their looks, actions and behavior. As a result, the new slaves would know the things to expect from their new owners. However, it is important to note that the new owners desisted from overworking their newly acquired slaves. Additionally, the slaves were given freedom of speech during court visits. Often, these visits cropped up when slave owners were not content with the new slaves (Johnson 189-213).
In summation, it is evident that the paper has focused on the slave trade in New Orleans apropos of the book, “Soul by Soul.” The author gives vivid information concerning the slaves, buyers and sellers. The book also outlines the salient relationship between paternalism and slavery. As a matter of fact, Johnson’s book eliminates many myths related to slavery. He gives complete insight and inner details that are not known to many individuals.
Works Cited
Johnson, Walter. Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1999. Internet resource.

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