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02.22.01 Farrow, Anne, with Joe Lang and Jenifer Frank, Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, published in 2005.

Our Review

The authors while working as journalists for The Hartford Courant upon learning that their own publication and several other venerable Northern businesses had historical ties to slavery decided to research the history and extent of the benefits Northern commercial interests derived from the “peculiar institution” of the South.

They not only chronicle the appearance of slavery in New England in the 1600’s, but also point out how quickly New Englanders saw the potential for economic gain and badly needed labor to be obtained from it. The authors trace the “triangle trade” which brought profits to Northern rum distillers and shipping companies trading in human cargo bound for the Americas. The authors were surprised to discover how many slaves were present in the Northern colonies prior to the Revolutionary War and their economic impact on both North and South.

The development of the Northern textile industry and the ever increasing demand for cotton made slavery part of the fabric of the American economic system for both sections of the country. Northern textile owners reaped vast fortunes for their companies as well as their heirs from cotton cheaply provided by slave labor. That many prominent New England families and institutions derived their fortunes from the spread of slavery throughout the South was a fact many Northerners would soon forget. Later when the slave trade became illegal internationally, slave ships still departed from New York nearly up to the 1860s and rarely were there any consequences.

The authors admit they were surprised and shocked at their findings, and how little they knew about the North’s historical and economic promotion of slavery. This book is refreshing in its candor and well worth the read.