Hosted by the hudson river maritime museum
Wednesday, April 7, 2021 | 7:00 PM | Virtual via Zoom
We often think of slavery as a southern phenomenon, far removed from the booming cities of the North. But even though slavery had been outlawed in Gotham by the 1830s, Black New Yorkers were not safe. Not only was the city built on the backs of slaves; it was essential in keeping slavery and the slave trade alive.
In The Kidnapping Club, historian Jonathan Daniel Wells tells the story of the powerful network of judges, lawyers, and police officers who circumvented anti-slavery laws by sanctioning the kidnapping of free and fugitive African Americans. Nicknamed “The New York Kidnapping Club,” the group had the tacit support of institutions from Wall Street to Tammany Hall whose wealth depended on the Southern slave and cotton trade. But a small cohort of abolitionists, including Black journalist David Ruggles, organized tirelessly for the rights of Black New Yorkers, often risking their lives in the process.
Taking readers into the bustling streets and ports of America’s great Northern metropolis, The Kidnapping Club is a dramatic account of the ties between slavery and capitalism, the deeply corrupt roots of policing, and the strength of Black activism.
Jonathan Daniel Wells, Ph.D., is Professor of History in the Residential College, the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, and the Department of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author or editor of several books, including The Origins of the Southern Middle Class: 1820-1861 (University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Women Writers and Journalists in the Nineteenth-Century South (Cambridge University Press, 2011); The Southern Middle Class in the Long Nineteenth Century (LSU Press, 2011); and A House Divided: The Civil War and Nineteenth-Century America (second ed., 2016). His most recent books are Blind no More: African American Resistance, Free Soil Politics, and the Coming of the Civil War (2019) and The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War (2020).
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