Go back

APSU students learn from award winning American slavery scholar Ed Baptist

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Slavery in the United States was officially abolished on Dec. 6, 1865 when the thirteenth amendment was ratified by three-fourth of the states. But while all remaining slaves became officially free on that day, the ripples from the United States’ violent history continue to be felt to this day.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Slavery in the United States was officially abolished on Dec. 6, 1865 when the thirteenth amendment was ratified by three-fourth of the states. But while all remaining slaves became officially free on that day, the ripples from the United States’ violent history continue to be felt to this day.

Austin Peay State University students recently had an opportunity to converse with one of the preeminent experts on the history of slavery in the United States when they participated in an online question and answer session with journalist, and Cornell University history professor, Ed Baptist.

Baptist recently was awarded the 2015 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism for “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” a work exploring the integral role slavery played in American capitalism, and the uncomfortable truths tying America’s growth to its oppressive past.

Utilizing classroom technology, as well as Skype video conferencing, students in APSU associate professor Dr. Minoa Uffelman’s “South to 1861” class were given the chance to pick’s Baptist’s brain and dive deeper into the scholar’s research.

“I wanted my students to read this newly published important study about the history of slavery and capitalism,” Uffelman said. “‘The Half Has Never Been Told’ is being reviewed by all the important publications. (Weekly international newspaper) The Economist reviewed it unfavorably, writing that in this book, all slaves were victims and all slave owners were villains. As a result, Twitter and the Internet exploded with discussions about the meaning of slavery and capitalism in our history. 

“I wanted APSU students to be in the part of the debate,” Uffelman continued. “The students read the book and we’ve discussed it throughout the semester … the students truly comprehended the complexity of the issues and got to ask Dr. Baptist their own questions. It was an amazing learning experience.”

Baptist’s work offers a new interpretation of American history, challenging the notion that the American Civil War was necessary to bring an end to slavery and presenting it as a profitable business that would have otherwise endured.

APSU students in Uffelman’s course said the opportunity to explore Baptist’s research and discuss the topic with the author challenged their views on a defining moment in American history.

“(Baptist’s book) was such an eye opener for me to read, finally recognize and admit to myself, that there is no such thing as a ‘benevolent slave owner,’” APSU senior history major Rick Casteel said. “After the realization of the myths I have believed in my 58 years, I want to volunteer to help him with his next project and am seriously contemplating trying to compile some of the freed slave soldiers exit reviews as a research project of my own.”

For more information, contact Uffelman at uffelmanm@apsu.edu. Baptist’s book, “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” can be purchased at bookstores and amazon.com.