• The Ledger and the Chain

  • How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America
  • By: Joshua D. Rothman
  • Narrated by: Leon Nixon
  • Length: 13 hrs and 40 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (44 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An award-winning historian reveals the harrowing forgotten story of America's internal slave trade - and its role in the making of America.

Slave traders are peripheral figures in most histories of American slavery. But these men - who trafficked and sold over half a million enslaved people from the Upper South to the Deep South - were essential to slavery's expansion and fueled the growth and prosperity of the United States.

In The Ledger and the Chain, acclaimed historian Joshua D. Rothman recounts the shocking story of the domestic slave trade by tracing the lives and careers of Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard, who built the largest and most powerful slave-trading operation in American history. Far from social outcasts, they were rich and widely respected businessmen, and their company sat at the center of capital flows connecting southern fields to northeastern banks. Bringing together entrepreneurial ambition and remorseless violence toward enslaved people, domestic slave traders produced an atrocity that forever transformed the nation.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.  

©2021 Joshua D. Rothman (P)2021 Basic Books
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Tremendous.... [The Ledger and the Chain] intertwines a careful biography of a very successful business with unflinching attention to the monstrosity that business was built upon.” (Slate)

"In smoothly readable prose and with an unflinching moral eye, Rothman uses the biographies of a few key players to investigate the internal slave trade of America in the years before the Civil War." (Christian Science Monitor)

“Slave traders aren’t often called out by name, and therefore are subjected to little accountability. But Rothman shines a light on how these human traffickers were responsible for crimes against humanity, the sale of over half a million enslaved people among them.” (Fortune

What listeners say about The Ledger and the Chain

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Hyper editorialized

The historical chronicle is damaging enough to the reputation of the domestic slave traders. This otherwise well researched and interesting book is held back by too many editorial comments, assumptions of will or emotion, and unconcealed political appeals made to a subset of modern readers.

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Unfortunately really boring

It literally is a ledger on people’s names that participated. I love history but it’s gotta be more interesting.

1 person found this helpful