The Price for Their Pound of Flesh

The Price for Their Pound of Flesh:
The Value of the Enslaved from Womb to Grave,
in the Building of a Nation

Daina Ramey Berry

Boston: Beacon Press | 2017

The Price for Their Pound of Flesh is the first book to explore the economic value of enslaved people through every phase of their lives—including from before birth to after death—in the American domestic slave trades. Covering the full “life cycle” (including preconception, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, the senior years, and death), historian Daina Berry shows the lengths to which slaveholders would go to maximize profits. She draws from over ten years of research to explore how enslaved people responded to being appraised, bartered, and sold. By illuminating their lives, Berry ensures that the individuals she studies are regarded as people, not merely commodities. Analyzing the depth of this monetization of human property will change the way we think about slavery, reparations, capitalism, and nineteenth-century medical education.

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“Daina Ramey Berry’s harrowing account of how slaveholders turned every aspect of a slave’s life into a commodity to be sold on markets—from the reproductive possibilities of enslaved women to the corpses of deceased slaves—is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding American history, or our contemporary dilemmas.”

Sven Beckert, author of Empire of Cotton: A Global History

“Daina Berry has written the richest account of the many ways in which an enslaved African American’s body was bought and sold throughout her or his lifetime. From the cradle to the grave and beyond, enslavers priced black bodies based on their imagined fitness for labor, sexual exploitation, use as collateral, and even their value after death as dissection cadavers. In horrific detail, Berry shows that there was a price tag placed on every pound of flesh. She also shows the efforts of enslaved people to assert that their lives had values beyond the money that could be rendered from their muscles and extracted from their bones. Out of the certainty that their souls were pearls beyond price, black people fought to make room for their own system of human values.”

Edward E. Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Slavery and Freedom in Savannah

Slavery and Freedom in Savannah

Edited by Leslie M. Harris and Daina Ramey Berry

Athens: University of Georgia Press | 2014

Slavery and Freedom in Savannah is a richly illustrated, accessibly written book modeled on the very successful Slavery in New York, a volume Leslie M. Harris coedited with Ira Berlin. Here Harris and Daina Ramey Berry have collected a variety of perspectives on slavery, emancipation, and black life in Savannah from the city’s founding to the early twentieth century. Written by leading historians of Savannah, Georgia, and the South, the volume includes a mix of longer thematic essays and shorter sidebars focusing on individual people, events, and places.

Slavery and Freedom in Savannah provides a fascinating, multifaceted, documented look inside this storied city during tumultuous times. With an emphasis on African American experience and relations across the color line, each chapter opens an illuminating window into the always complex, often unexpected nature of urban life in the South from the period of the slave trade through the early twentieth-century struggle for black civil rights.”

Tiya Miles, author of The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story

“Based on extensive and original research, as well as on a close understanding of the broader issues in the history of slavery and race relations, this marvelous collection of essays adds enormously to our understanding of the struggles and achievements of black Savannahians. An invaluable study, and one which no student of the black populations of other southern towns and cities can afford to ignore.”

Betty Wood, Author of Slavery in Colonial America, 1619–1776

Daina Ramey Berry, Enslaved Women in America

Enslaved Women in America: An Encyclopedia

Daina Ramey Berry, Editor in Chief, with Deleso A. Alford, Senior Editor

Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO | 2012

This singular reference provides an authoritative account of the daily lives of enslaved women in the United States, from colonial times to emancipation following the Civil War. Through essays, photos, and primary source documents, the female experience is explored, and women are depicted as central, rather than marginal, figures in history.
Enslaved Women in America: An Encyclopedia contains 100 entries written by a range of experts and covering all aspects of daily life. Topics include culture, family, health, labor, resistance, and violence. Arranged alphabetically by entry, this unique look at history features life histories of lesser-known African American women, including Harriet Robinson Scott, the wife of Dred Scott, as well as more notable figures.
Click here to read an interview with Daina Ramey Berry about the encyclopedia.

"Ranging in topic from branding to child care and from folk medicine to hiring out, these absorbing pieces are also well-written and approachable for a general adult audience and undergraduates through faculty. All public and academic libraries supporting American history, African American studies, or women’s studies programs should purchase this work."

Library Journal

"This is an interesting encyclopaedia covering both the history of slavery, and of women during this era, specifically how gender affected the personal and working lives of enslaved women, not just in relation to the enslavers, but within their own communities. This is useful for humanities collections, in particular for history and gender studies subjects, but anyone with an interest in the Old South, the American Civil War, the roots of feminism and the era of slavery would find this a worthwhile read."

Reference Reviews

Swing the Sickle

Swing the Sickle for the Harvest is Ripe:
Gender and Slavery in Antebellum Georgia

Daina Ramey Berry

Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press | 2007

Swing the Sickle for the Harvest Is Ripe compares the work, family, and economic experiences of enslaved women and men in upcountry and low country Georgia during the nineteenth century. Mining planters' daybooks, plantation records, and a wealth of other sources, Daina Ramey Berry shows how slaves' experiences on large plantations, which were essentially self-contained, closed communities, contrasted with those on small plantations, where planters' interests in sharing their workforces allowed slaves more open, fluid communications. By inviting readers into slaves' internal lives through her detailed examination of domestic violence, separation and sale, and forced breeding, Berry also reveals important new ways of understanding what it meant to be a female or male slave, as well as how public and private aspects of slave life influenced each other on the plantation.

"Berry's book contributes to our understanding about how slaveholders attempted to control slave labor and what men and women did to shape family lives within the confines of enslavement."

American Historical Review

"'Swing the Sickle' demonstrates how far gender has come as a category of historical analysis in slave studies. It displays refinement, nuance, and balance . . . it brings together gender, work, family, and economy in an easily accessible, readable account useful to slave scholars and students of Georgia slavery in particular."

Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Berry's fresh approach to studying slavery in Georgia includes new discussions of gender exploitation, family, and worker's skills. 'Swing the Sickle for the Harvest Is Ripe' makes a tremendous contribution to the field, as it makes important connections between labor, skill and gender, forced breeding, and the informal economy.

Deborah Gray White, author of  Ar'n't I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South

Dr Daina Ramey Berry , Sexuality and Slavery

Sexuality & Slavery: Reclaiming Intimate Histories in the Americas

Edited by Daina Ramey Berry and Leslie M. Harris

Athens: University of Georgia Press | 2018