The Central Fact Of American History

It was the nation’s biggest business, it was well organized as a Detroit assembly line, and it was here to stay. It was slavery. David Brion Davis, A lifelong student of the institution, tells how he discovered—and then set about teaching—its vast significance.


I have long believed that what most distinguishes us from all other animals is our ability to transcend an illusory sense of now , of an eternal present, and to strive for an understanding of the forces and events that made us what we are. Such an understanding seems to me the prerequisite for all human freedom.

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Middle Passage

Packed like animals in the holds of slave ships, Negroes bound for America were prey to disease, brutal masters, and their own suicidal melancholy.

Long before Europeans appeared on the African coast, the merchants of Timbuktu were exporting slaves to the Moorish kingdoms north of the Sahara. Even the transatlantic slave trade had a long history. There were Negroes in Santo Domingo as early as 1503, and the first twenty slaves were sold in Jamestown, Virginia, about the last week of August, 1619, only twelve years after the colony was founded.Read more »

The Slave Ship Rebellion

From the dark hold of the Amistad sprang a bold band who sailed her into history


Long and low and black-hulled, the schooner beat along the Cuban coast in the black and starless night. The moon at midnight tried to break through the pall of the clouds, but was blotted from the rim of the featureless horizon by a drenching smother of rain. The schooner pitched and bucked in head winds and seas, discomfort in her after cabin where two wealthy Cuban planters slept fitfully, despair and desperation in the cramped hold where 53 Negro slaves were chained by neck and hands and feet.Read more »