The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward Baptist
After our first two meetings we have covered about just about half the book. In week one we discussed how the book was written. The nearly 500 page history book can seem intimidating but we discussed how Baptist’s use of stories cuts through dense historical narrative. We reflected on his use of imagery that humanized those who were enslaved and the enslavers. It really highlighted that slavery was done onto humans by humans. One of the most powerful stories in the first few chapters is of Charles Ball, who endured a forced migration of hundreds of miles, chained in dozens of other enslaved people a coffle. We also discussed how each of the chapters is themed, whether it be a metaphor to a part of the human body, or a topic – torture, culture, religion, etc.
By our second meeting we had finished the chapter on torture. We all agreed that this was a tough, yet deeply moving chapter to read. We also began to discuss the larger narrative of the book, how slavery in the American deep south rose hand in hand with the success of modern capitalism. The ability to use torture to increase efficiency in the production of cotton had deep influences globally. New markets were created and the ability to use credit led to dramatic increases in wealth. This wealth however was built upon a system of demonization and exploitation. We were also able to connect the themes in the book with the topics that we teach. Zac was able to provide some more context of the relationship between exploitation and capitalism from his background in teaching Latin American Studies, and Sonia shared a video on world population growth.
We are looking forward to finishing the book and delving deeper into our we can connect the stories in the book to our practice.
Our next meeting is Wednesday August 2nd 6-8pm at 7212 Lincoln Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19119. We are 2 blocks away from the Allen Lane train station on the Chestnut Hill West line (regional rail), and a half a mile away from the #23 bus stop at Allens Lane and Germantown Avenue.