Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Edward Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism: General Information

General Information

Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism


General Information on "The Half Has Never Been Told"

Historians Perspectives/Interpretations

Economists Perspectives/Interpretations


Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism


Positive Reviews


The Economist - Controversial Article and Ensuing Backlash

Interviews with the Author

Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism


Interviews with Baptist

(UMass Amherst - 2015) Edward Baptist aims to educate the students and faculty of UMass Amherst on American slavery and the ways in which its effects have led to persisting inequality both socially and economically. Baptist provides a basic overview of his book, The Half Has Never Been Told, as he clearly describes specific slave testimonies, general themes, as well as the methodology of his research. He draws parallels between U.S slavery and the current capitalistic system in America such as the idea that industries such as finance and technology have an overemphasis on productivity. Baptist continues to claim that this current overemphasis on productivity is coupled with unrealistic expectations for employees to hit their goals. Baptist’s arguments are enhanced through visual aids including scanned photos of ledgers that depict the daily amount of cotton picked by each slave. This also demonstrates the unattainable goals put in place for the slaves.
(Georgetown University - 2016) Similar to his talk at UMass Amherst, Baptist gives a broad overview of The Half Has Never Been Told, calling both institutions and individuals to acknowledge the ways in which the United States has been built from slavery. Additionally, Baptist discusses his personal motivations for studying slavery such as his desire to spread the idea of monetary reparations for the Black community as a solution to current racial wealth inequality. A unique aspect of this talk is a discussion between Baptist and the well-informed moderator named Maurice Jackson. Mr. Jackson is a history professor at Georgetown as well as the first chair of the D.C commission on African American Affairs. Their discussion included topics ranging from the idea of efficiency to parallels involving slavery and modern-day capitalism.
(Google - 2014) In this video, Baptist speaks at Google’s office in Cambridge, Massachusetts to discuss his book, The Half Has Never Been Told and provide details about slave labor and the cotton production process. The major strength of this video is the question and answer portion as it takes up over half of the video and contains intelligent questions. The Q&A portions expands upon ideas and topics that are frequently mentioned in The Half Has Never Been Told. These topics include a brief analysis of slavery in the Caribbean as well as what Baptist believes he contributes to the broader discussion of slavery. More specifically, Baptist believes his research is new and innovative because he not only analyzes slavery in the 1800’s, but also examines the ways in which it has contributed to the current capitalistic economy in the U.S. It is important to note that in this discussion, Baptist emphasizes that the slave narratives are essential to his research on slavery.
(American Forum - 2015) This video from the Virginia Public Media (VPM) is a conversational style Interview with Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Douglas Blackmon. Mr. Blackmon is an expert on the topic of slavery and is known for his book, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. Baptist and Blackmon engage in an in-depth discussion on topics such as the slave auction process, methodology of the WPA narratives, and the sexual exploitation of slaves in the 1800’s. Prior to auction, slaves were ranked based on their cotton picking performance and provided with absorbent amounts of rich food so they look stronger in the weeks leading up to their sale. Although many critics claim that the WPA slave narratives are unreliable, Baptist asserts that people must utilize these narratives to better understand the slave experience. The narratives should be accompanied with written empirical evidence such as ledgers from slave owners.

General Video Interviews/Podcast Discussions

Slave Narratives

Slave Narrative Reconsidered: Strengths and Limitations

"Ex-Slave Stories"

Slave narrative | American literature | Britannica

Search results for Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal  Writers' Project, 1936 to 1938, Love Story, Available Online, Federal  Writers' Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 11, North Carolina, Part 2,