The Slave Cabin Project
By Leoneda Inge, Wunc.org [February 27, 2014]
There is no official count on how many slave cabins are left standing across the country today. You might ask, “Who’s counting?”
Well, the South Carolina-based Slave Dwelling Project is counting and so is the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Archaeologists at James Madison’s Montpelier estate in Virginia set out to locate where slave cabins once stood on its property. And last week, a group of people helped re-build a part of that history.
The 2,700 acres at James and Dolley Madison’s Montpelier estate looked like a winter postcard when the 16 of us arrived for log cabin building school.
Our eyes got real big when we approached the worksite, and saw the huge pile of logs. We weren’t here to stack pre-fab, pre-cut pieces of wood to construct a slave cabin.
How Slavery Led To Modern Capitalism
Bloomberg View | by Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, The Huffington Post 2/24/2014
When the New York City banker James Brown tallied his wealth in 1842, he had to look far below Wall Street to trace its origins. His investments in the American South exceeded $1.5 million, a quarter of which was directly bound up in the ownership of slave plantations.
Brown was among the world’s most powerful dealers in raw cotton, and his family’s firm, Brown Brothers & Co., served as one of the most important sources of capital and foreign exchange to the U.S. economy. Still, no small amount of his time was devoted to managing slaves from the study of his Leonard Street brownstone in Lower Manhattan.
Brown was hardly unusual among the capitalists of the North. Nicholas Biddle’s United States Bank of Philadelphia funded banks in Mississippi to promote the expansion of plantation lands. Biddle recognized that slave-grown cotton was the only thing made in the U.S. that had the capacity to bring gold and silver into the vaults of the nation’s banks. Likewise, the architects of New England’s industrial revolution watched the price of cotton with rapt attention, for their textile mills would have been silent without the labor of slaves on distant plantations.
But as scholars delve deeper into corporate archives and think more critically about coerced labor and capitalism — perhaps informed by the current scale of human trafficking — the importance of slavery to American economic history will become inescapable.