Analysis Of Soul By Soul

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When reading about the institution of slavery in the United States, it is easy to focus on life for the slaves on the plantations—the places where the millions of people purchased to serve as slaves in the United States lived, made families, and eventually died. Most of the information we seek is about what daily life was like for these people, and what went “wrong” in our country’s collective psyche that allowed us to normalize the practice of keeping human beings as property, no more or less valuable than the machines in the factories which bolstered industrialized economies at the time. Many of us want to find information that assuages our own personal feelings of discomfort or even guilt over the practice which kept Southern life moving…show more content…
Through historical documents and transcriptions of personal accounts, he attempts to create a glimpse into the more economically driven side of slavery. Johnson uses excerpts from these documents to paint a picture of what it was like to be involved with the slave trade in New Orleans. Most importantly, he attempts to tell the story from several different perspectives—that of the slave owner, the slave trader, and even the slaves themselves. The picture Johnson paints is not the one we are used to of slaves on plantations and in “big houses,” working in the fields and serving their masters, nor is it the darker idea of the punishments those slaves received for taking even a tiny step out of line. Instead, Johnson shows us an even darker, bleaker side of slavery—the reduction of human beings to the same level as farm animals, to be bought and sold and traded in the brutal economy of the slave trade. In this trade, people were reduced to commodities, their value determined down to the dollar based on physical attributes. Johnson quotes one trader, David Wise, on the value of a human eye: "Being asked if the girl had a filter on her eye if it would impair her value, he says it would impair its value from $25 to…show more content…
This makes for a very interesting read. Johnson’s personal writing style does not shine through much due to the way he chose to build narrative around historical sources, but nevertheless he tells an interesting, cohesive story that draws the reader in and exposes some of the insidious history surrounding the trade of slaves in our history. The book is divided into seven sections, ten including the introduction and epilogue, as well as a section dedicated to illustrations of historical documents alluded to in the text. Johnson also includes a section entitled “Notes,” where he has compiled his sources. The “Notes” section is not a straight bibliography. It also includes helpful author notes describing the context of sources that did not fit in the main narrative, and references for those wanting to do their own research. For example, one note includes information on a book by Tadman which contains information on the number of slaves traded. The author includes a summary, including migration numbers and the percentage of those numbers directly related to the trade. This section is helpfully divided and labeled, with the notes referred to in each part of the book labeled by section. Each notation and illustration is referenced within the text by numbers, which coincide with each note or illustration offering more

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