Synopses & Reviews
The American Slave Coast
offers a provocative vision of US history from earliest colonial times through emancipation that presents even the most familiar events and figures in a revealing new light.
Authors Ned and Constance Sublette tell the brutal story of how the slavery industry made the reproductive labor of the people it referred to as “breeding women” essential to the young country’s expansion. Captive African Americans in the slave nation were not only laborers, but merchandise and collateral all at once. In a land without silver, gold, or trustworthy paper money, their children and their children’s children into perpetuity were used as human savings accounts that functioned as the basis of money and credit in a market premised on the continual expansion of slavery. Slaveowners collected interest in the form of newborns, who had a cash value at birth and whose mothers had no legal right to say no to forced mating.
This gripping narrative is driven by the power struggle between the elites of Virginia, the slave-raising “mother of slavery,” and South Carolina, the massive importer of Africans—a conflict that was central to American politics from the making of the Constitution through the debacle of the Confederacy.
Virginia slaveowners won a major victory when Thomas Jefferson’s 1808 prohibition of the African slave trade protected the domestic slave markets for slave-breeding. The interstate slave trade exploded in Mississippi during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, drove the US expansion into Texas, and powered attempts to take over Cuba and other parts of Latin America, until a disaffected South Carolina spearheaded the drive to secession and war, forcing the Virginians to secede or lose their slave-breeding industry.
Filled with surprising facts, fascinating incidents, and startling portraits of the people who made, endured, and resisted the slave-breeding industry, The American Slave Coast culminates in the revolutionary Emancipation Proclamation, which at last decommissioned the capitalized womb and armed the formerly enslaved to fight for their freedom.
"As the cofounder of the important Cuban music label Qbadisc and coproducer of public radio's Afropop Worldwide, Sublette is a well-known figure among elite mambo aficionados. Still, the sheer size and historical precision that makes this volume essential is a bit surprising coming from this proud nonacademic. The first two chapters, for instance, offer a fascinating narrative that explains the complex formulation of Iberian culture, beginning with the appearance of Phoenician traders in what is now the southern Spanish city of Cdiz in 1104 B.C. When the Cuban story finally kicks in with chapter five, Sublette makes the most of his prehistory to create a visceral and astute vision of the island as incubator of musical revolution. Most of the story has been told before, but rarely in such painstaking detail, and Sublette's easygoing and engaging writing style makes the reading almost painless, although sometimes his analysis is overly determined by politics. His most important accomplishment is combining information from rarely translated musicological works from Cuba with data from his active involvement with surviving giants of the music to produce one sustained, living history. Given all this, it is odd that he ends the book so abruptly, in 1952, especially since he has participated so much in the music's recent permutations. While not exactly for beginners, this book is a solid, supremely lush effort. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] magnificent history of Cuban music....Well produced, well edited, well indexed, and a bargain besides. I do have one suggestion for the publishers: the book would be so much more fun to read if one could listen to musical examples alongside the text." Stephen Brown, the Times Literary Supplement
(read the entire Times Literary Supplement review
This entertaining history of Cuba and its music begins with the collision of Spain and Africa and continues through the era of Miguelito Valdés, Arsenio Rodríguez, Benny Moré, and Pérez Prado. It offers a behind-the-scenes examination of music from a Cuban point of view, unearthing surprising, provocative connections and making the case that Cuba was fundamental to the evolution of music in the New World. The ways in which the music of black slaves transformed 16th-century Europe, how the claves appeared, and how Cuban music influenced ragtime, jazz, and rhythm and blues are revealed. Music lovers will follow this journey from Andalucía, the Congo, the Calabar, Dahomey, and Yorubaland via Cuba to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Saint-Domingue, New Orleans, New York, and Miami. The music is placed in a historical context that considers the complexities of the slave trade; Cuba's relationship to the United States; its revolutionary political traditions; the music of Santería, Palo, Abakuá, and Vodú; and much more.
A wide-ranging, powerful, alternative vision of the history of the United States and how the slave-breeding industry shaped it
The American Slave Coast tells the horrific story of how the slavery business in the United States made the reproductive labor of “breeding women” essential to the expansion of the nation. The book shows how slaves’ children, and their children’s children, were human savings accounts that were the basis of money and credit. This was so deeply embedded in the economy of the slave states that it could only be decommissioned by Emancipation, achieved through the bloodiest war in the history of the United States. The American Slave Coast is an alternative history of the United States that presents the slavery business, as well as familiar historical figures and events, in a revealing new light.
About the Author
Ned Sublette is the author of Cuba and Its Music, The World that Made New Orleans, and The Year Before the Flood. Constance Sublette has published, as Constance Ash, the novels The Horsegirl, The Stalking Horse, and The Stallion Queen, and has edited the anthology Not of Woman Born.