Susan Strasser has been praised by the New Yorker for "retrieving what history discards: the taken-for-granted minutiae of everyday life." Her major books—Never Done: A History of American Housework (1982); Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market (1989); and Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash (1999)—have won a number of awards for their contributions to women's history, the history of technology and business, and environmental history, and have been translated into Italian, Korean, and Japanese. She is Richards Professor Emerita of American History at the University of Delaware and has also taught at the Evergreen State College, George Washington University, Princeton University, and the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture. Her work has been supported by fellowships from the Rockefeller and Guggenheim foundations, the German Historical Institute, the Harvard Business School, the American Council of Learned Societies, Radcliffe College's Bunting Institute, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Cultures of Consumption Research Programme, Birkbeck College, University of London. She is currently working on two projects: "A White Historian Reads Black History," a series of talks for religious and community groups, and www.herbstory.info, a website about the history of medicinal plants in American culture.
Slavery is arguably the most important topic in our history: American ideas about freedom developed in relation to slavery, it was the primary cause of the Civil War, and it was at the heart of American economic growth. This talk—illustrated with nearly sixty images—uses new work from historians to describe slavery as inherent to the development of American capitalism, to put the treatment of human property into that context, and to describe resistance to the slave system. It concludes with thoughts about the contemporary importance of this history.