Joshua Rothman’s The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America was published by Basic Books in 2021, and tells a sprawling history of slave traders in America. Often presented as outcasts and social pariahs, slave traders were often instead wealthy and respected members of their communities. Rothman explores the lives and careers of Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard to show just what the work of a domestic slave trader looked like and the devastating affects their actions had on enslaved people. By weaving together a history the lives of men who created one of the most powerful slave trading operations in America, Rothman is able to show how slavery’s expansion and growth occurred up to the Civil War.
Joshua Rothman is a professor of history at the University of Alabama.
Derek Litvak is a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland—College Park. His dissertation, "The Specter of Black Citizens: Race, Slavery, and Citizenship in the Early United States," examines how citizenship was used to both bolster the institution of slavery and exclude Black Americans from the body politic.