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An Intimate Economy

Enslaved Women, Work, and America's Domestic Slave Trade

By Alexandra J. Finley

200 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 4 halftones

  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5512-3
    Published: July 2020
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5511-6
    Published: August 2020
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6135-3
    Published: August 2020

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Alexandra Finley adds crucial new dimensions to the boisterous debate over the relationship between slavery and capitalism by placing women's labor at the center of the antebellum slave trade, focusing particularly on slave traders' ability to profit from enslaved women's domestic, reproductive, and sexual labor. The slave market infiltrated every aspect of southern society, including the most personal spaces of the household, the body, and the self. Finley shows how women’s work was necessary to the functioning of the slave trade, and thus to the spread of slavery to the Lower South, the expansion of cotton production, and the profits accompanying both of these markets.

Through the personal histories of four enslaved women, Finley explores the intangible costs of the slave market, moving beyond ledgers, bills of sales, and statements of profit and loss to consider the often incalculable but nevertheless invaluable place of women's emotional, sexual, and domestic labor in the economy. The details of these women's lives reveal the complex intersections of economy, race, and family at the heart of antebellum society.

About the Author

Alexandra Finley is assistant professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh.
For more information about Alexandra J. Finley, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"For far too long histories of the slave market, the domestic slave trade, and their connection to American capitalism have privileged the lives and experiences of men. Not so with Alexandra Finley’s An Intimate Economy. Finley shows us that women were more than acted upon in the market; they were actively engaged in activities that supported and even shaped the contours of the market itself. An intimate Economy heeds the call of feminist scholars from across disciplinary boundaries to produce careful analyses which foreground the contributions of free and enslaved women in studies about the market, especially the economy of American slavery, and Finley has done exactly that. Alexandra Finley’s book transforms what we thought we knew about the roles free and enslaved women played in the markets of American slavery."--Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, author of They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South

"Richly textured and robustly argued, Alex Finley has produced a vivid and captivating history of the U.S. slave trade. Her meticulous archival research has opened a new window on American capitalism through the lives of women involved in the business of slavery."--Calvin Schermerhorn, author of Unrequited Toil: A History of United States Slavery

"Many of the stories in this book have gone unexplored in any real depth, and this smart and thoroughly researched work provides original and valuable analyses of the operation of the slave trade and the experiences of enslaved and free black women caught in impossible circumstances."--Joshua Rothman, author of Flush Times & Fever Dreams: A Story of Capitalism and Slavery in the Age of Jackson