The Ledger and the Chain: A Biography of the Domestic Slave Trade


ACLS Fellowship Program




The scholarship on the domestic slave trade in the United States tells us little about the traders who directed the traffic in human beings and built their lives by speculating on and profiting from the misery of the enslaved. This project reconceives the story of the slave trade through the biographies of Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard, who together operated Franklin and Armfield, the most important and powerful slave trading company the nation would ever see. The project amplifies the history of the slave trade and reframes ideas about entrepreneurialism and the protean shape of US capitalism, both of which have long been predicated on racially neutral myths about individualistic strivers and racially bound realities of sanctioned structural inequality.