Lending and Borrowing Across the Color Line in the Antebellum American South


ACLS Fellowship Program


History and Law

Named Award

ACLS Oscar Handlin Fellow named award


This project reconstructs the world of black moneylenders in the antebellum US South in order to explore categories of property, commerce, citizenship, and rights. It demonstrates that free—and sometimes enslaved—black Americans were more than just property and labor in the southern economy; they were also essential arteries for capital, extending loans—large and small—to both whites and blacks. As sources and managers of capital, black people were important drivers of their local economies and the larger credit system in the nineteenth-century US South. These relationships of debt and obligation speak to important issues related to the development of market capitalism and to the relationship between race and economic citizenship.