The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War

Jonathan Daniel Wells. Bold Type, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-1-56858-752-3
University of Michigan history professor Wells (Blind No More) describes 19th-century New York City as “the most potent proslavery and pro-South city north of the Mason-Dixon Line” in this richly detailed account. Wells highlights links between Wall Street and the cotton trade, and reveals how city leaders worked to preserve that relationship by “using the Fugitive Slave Clause as a subterfuge to terrorize black New Yorkers.” The spark, according to Wells, was the flight, in 1832, of 17 slaves from Norfolk, Va., to New York in a stolen whaleboat. Police officer Tobias Boudinot was granted “a wholesale right to arrest anyone he could even remotely accuse of being a runaway,” an authority he and his fellow officers, with cooperation from City Recorder Richard Riker and local judges and lawyers, wielded to capture free Blacks and sell them into slavery. Wells also details how Tammany Hall political bosses stoked racial animus between Irish immigrants and Blacks, and interweaves throughout African-American abolitionist David Ruggles’s fight against these forces. Lively prose and vivid scenes of New York street life complement the meticulous research. The result is a revealing look at a little-known chapter in the history of racial injustice. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/12/2020
Release date: 10/20/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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