American Slavers

Sean M. Kelley


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Yale University Press
25 July 2023
ISBN: 9780300263596
496 pages

From the publisher

The first telling of the unknown story of America's two-hundred-year history as a slave-trading nation

A total of 305,000 enslaved Africans arrived in the New World aboard American vessels over a span of two hundred years as American merchants and mariners sailed to Africa and to the Caribbean to acquire and sell captives. Using exhaustive archival research, including many collections that have never been used before, historian Sean M. Kelley argues that slave trading needs to be seen as integral to the larger story of American slavery.

Engaging with both African and American history and addressing the trade over time, Kelley examines the experience of captivity, drawing on more than a hundred African narratives to offer a portrait of enslavement in the regions of Africa frequented by American ships. Kelley also provides a social history of the two American ports where slave trading was most intensive, Newport and Bristol, Rhode Island.

In telling this tragic, brutal, and largely unknown story, Kelley corrects many misconceptions while leaving no doubt that Americans were a nation of slave traders.