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.
"Musician, musicologist and longtime New York resident, Sublette revisits his Southern roots and recounts a 2004 2005 pre-Katrina research sojourn in New Orleans in this blunt, eloquently humane and musically astute memoir a worthy companion to his acclaimed The World That Made New Orleans, a music-laden cultural history of the city to 1819. Sublette delves into some quintessential dynamics of modern American popular culture including racism and poverty as well as restive imagination and invention through the prism of his childhood in virulently segregated, early rock 'n' rolling Natchitoches, La., and the fraught but idiosyncratic culture he finds in pre-flood New Orleans. If discussions of Elvis, early rock 'n' roll and hip-hop millionaires straight out of New Orleans's projects inevitably rehearse familiar narratives, Sublette carefully marks them out as part of a larger personal and social landscape. Sublette's sensitivity to the precariousness of a system that collapsed completely after he returned to New York is more than mere hindsight; his worldview dovetails movingly with his turbulent and alluring subject and its dogged rebirth. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An intense and thoughtful 'companion volume' to The World that Made New Orleans . . . A powerful, heartfelt and sometimes angry take on a great American city." Kirkus Reviews
"Ned Sublette is a literary Spirit Master, and The Year Before the Flood is his most personal and astounding work, full of mad knowledge and unorthodox insights about race, crime, history, politics, music and all the other ingredients that flavor the righteous roux that is New Orleans." T.J. English, author, Havana Nocturne and Paddy Whacked
“This articulate and intensely researched history provides not only an impressive look at its subject but also should serve as a model for any future works on great American cities. Cultural studies and history do not get much better than this, a must read for anyone who wonders why this city must be saved.” —Booklist on The World that Made New Orleans
“A powerful, heartfelt, and sometimes angry take on a great American city.” —Kirkus Reviews on The Year Before the Flood
“Sublette is a musical archeologist at heart. . . . Part memoir, part history lesson, it’s a scrapbook of the bustling port city at its most joyful, boisterous and deadly.” —Los Angeles Times on The Year Before the Flood
“Planters said that slavery was a peculiar domestic institution, a way of life. Abolitionists answered that it was the ugliest of businesses. For too long historians tried to split the difference but really took a side by calling it ‘the South,’ a society or a culture. Drawing on the most recent scholarship, Ned and Constance Sublette get it right: it was an industry, a particular market-tested brand with varieties adapted to its changing times and places. And like all industries it had a politics, too, that affected producers, consumers, and the workers who, in this peculiar case, were not only labor but also capital and, in the bodies of their children, product. The three-hundred-year story has rarely, if ever, been told so fully or so well.” —David Waldstreicher, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, author of Slavery's Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification
“The American story cannot be told without a knowledge of its complete history. In The American Slave Coast
, the Sublettes have painstakingly provided readers with both a compelling narrative and a well-documented and factual rendering. In addition, to its many other applications, The American Slave Coast
will be extremely useful as an exemplar in the contemplated National Slavery Museum in Virginia.” — L. Douglas Wilder, Former Governor of Virginia and author of Son of Virginia: A Life in America's Political Arena
“A massive story of impressive research…” —Kirkus Reviews
Spending 2004–2005 in New Orleans investigating the citys legendary past both in the archives and its living culture in the street, this account combines personal memoir, historical research, and on-the-ground reporting to trace a suspenseful arc through the last year New Orleans was whole. The perspectives of daily life and the passage of seasons in the antediluvian city are darkly comic, irreverent, passionate, and angry. Fully revealing the citys vicious heritage of racism and its murderous poverty, this heartbreaking narrative of joy, violence, and loss features a grand parade of unforgettable characters in the town that is both Americas great music city and its homicide capital.
This account combines personal memoir, historical research, and on-the-ground reporting to trace a suspenseful arc through the last year New Orleans was whole.
With a style the Los Angeles Times calls as vivid and fast-moving as the music he loves,” Ned Sublettes powerful new book drives the reader through the potholed, sinking streets of the United Statess least-typical city.
In this eagerly awaited follow-up to The World That Made New Orleans, Sublettes award-winning history of the Crescent Citys colonial years, he traces an arc of his own experience, from the white supremacy of segregated 1950s Louisiana through the funky year of 20042005--the last year New Orleans was whole. By turns irreverent, joyous, darkly comic, passionate, and polemical, The Year Before the Flood juxtaposes the citys crowded calendar of parties, festivals, and parades with the murderousness of its poverty and its legacy of racism. Along the way, Sublette opens up windows of American history that illuminate the present: the trajectory of Mardi Gras from preCivil War days, the falsification of Southern history in movies, the citys importance to early rock and roll, the complicated story of its housing projects, the uniqueness of its hip-hop scene, and the celebratory magnificence of the participatory parades known as second lines. With a grand, unforgettable cast of musicians and barkeeps, scholars and thugs, vibrating with the sheer excitement of New Orleans, The Year Before the Flood is an affirmation of the power of the citys culture and a heartbreaking tale of loss that definitively establishes Ned Sublette as a great American writer for the 21st century.
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.