Skip to content

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

Out of stock
Sold out
Original price $30.00
Original price $30.00 - Original price $30.00
Original price $30.00
Current price $25.99
$25.99 - $25.99
Current price $25.99
Winner of a 2020-2021 New York City Book Award

In a rapidly changing New York, two forces battled for the city's soul: the pro-slavery New Yorkers who kept the illegal slave trade alive and well, and the abolitionists fighting for freedom.

We often think of slavery as a southern phenomenon, far removed from the booming cities of the North. But even though slavery had been outlawed in Gotham by the 1830s, Black New Yorkers were not safe. Not only was the city built on the backs of slaves; it was essential in keeping slavery and the slave trade alive.

In The Kidnapping Club, historian Jonathan Daniel Wells tells the story of the powerful network of judges, lawyers, and police officers who circumvented anti-slavery laws by sanctioning the kidnapping of free and fugitive African Americans. Nicknamed "The New York Kidnapping Club," the group had the tacit support of institutions from Wall Street to Tammany Hall whose wealth depended on the Southern slave and cotton trade. But a small cohort of abolitionists, including Black journalist David Ruggles, organized tirelessly for the rights of Black New Yorkers, often risking their lives in the process.

Taking readers into the bustling streets and ports of America's great Northern metropolis, The Kidnapping Club is a dramatic account of the ties between slavery and capitalism, the deeply corrupt roots of policing, and the strength of Black activism.

ISBN-13: 9781568587523

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Publication Date: 10-20-2020

Pages: 368

Product Dimensions: 5.60(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Jonathan Daniel Wells is a social, cultural, and intellectual historian and a Professor of History in the Departments of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at Gonville & Caius College at the University of Cambridge. His published works include The Origins of the Southern Middle Class, Women Writers and Journalists in the Nineteenth-Century South, and A House Divided: The Civil War and Nineteenth-Century America. He lives in Detroit, Michigan.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Summer 1832: Norfolk, Virginia 1

1 The Battle Engaged 11

2 The Birth of the Kidnapping Club and the Rebirth of Manhattan 33

3 New York Divided 55

4 New York, a Port in the Slave Trade 77

5 Policing and Criminalizing the Black Community 97

6 Economic Panic 117

7 No End in Sight 143

8 New York and the Transatlantic Slave Trade 169

9 "Blessed Be Cotton!": The Fugitive Slave Law and New York City 195

10 The Portuguese Company 225

11 New York and Secession 255

12 Civil War 279

Epilogue The Hidden Past and Reparations Due 297

Acknowledgments 301

Notes 303

Index 333