Edward E. Baptist is a professor of history at Cornell University, where he also serves as House Professor-Dean of the Carl Becker House. He teaches about the history of slavery, the U.S. Civil War, American capitalism, and digital history and offers a service-learning course that brings American students to work in the schools of rural Jamaica. He is the author of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (2014), which won the OAH Avery O. Craven Award, and Creating an Old South: Middle Florida’s Plantation Frontier before the Civil War (2002). He is a coeditor, with the late Stephanie Camp, of New Studies in the History of American Slavery (2006) and, with Louis Hyman, of American Capitalism: A Reader (e-book edition 2014, paperback 2017). He is also leading a project called Freedom on the Move, a collaborative effort in digital history, with grant support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, that is building a crowd-sourced database of fugitive slave ads.
While looking for the experiences of enslaved people caught up in the forced migrations of the domestic slave trade, I discovered something I hadn't expected to find. The records of enslavers and the formerly enslaved alike showed that cotton production on southern slave labor camps was not only profitable, but also ever-more efficient. Not only was it efficient, but it was brutal. In fact, the brutality was what made it so productive--and destructive.