The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book In the Hands of Strangers

In the Hands of Strangers

Readings on Foreign and Domestic Slave Trading and the Crisis of the Union Robert Edgar Conrad
  • Copyright: 2001
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 536 pages
  • Illustrations: 18 b&w illustrations/1 map
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-02089-1
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-02343-4
“This collection is designed to offer readers perspectives on a major element of American slavery—the slave trade. The great strength of this book is that it documents the slave trade as a lived experience by the enslaved, the slaveholders, and those who rationalized and attacked the system. The current historiography of slavery tends to emphasize the ‘forced labor’ component of the institution. By contrast, the thrust of these readings is upon what one might call the anthropology of slavery—its impact upon the bodies, minds, emotions, and the elemental social structures (families and kinship) of the enslaved, and of those who had power over them.”
“This is a wonderfully complete work that stands in contrast to most documentary collections of slave trade sources, which tend to cover only the Atlantic trade. In recent years, the internal slave trade has attracted a good deal of scholarly attention. The strength of this unique work is that it is so solid in its discussion of the middle passage, but equally comprehensive as the trade moved onto land and even headed west into the heartland.”
“The strength of Robert Edgar Conrad’s In the Hands of Strangers is that an engaging collection of sixty-seven documents that places the momentous issue of slavery in historical context. The tripartite format of the anthology is innovative and extensive.”
“An excellent starting point for those looking to acquaint themselves with one of the fundamental processes of American slavery.”
“Conrad has done a fine job in assembling interesting and useful material that should appeal to scholars of slavery as well as students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”
“This is Robert E. Conrad’s second collection of primary texts on slavery; the first was Children of God’s Fire: A Documentary History of Black Slavery in Brazil (1984 [Penn State, 1994]). As with that volume, Conrad has done an excellent job of placing each document in context and otherwise satisfying the disciplinary requirements for this type of publication.

Without doubt, his book on North America and slave trading will become a useful text at both the advanced undergraduate and graduate levels, and many scholars will in fact find the selection a useful compendium.”

In the Hands of Strangers is a collection of sixty-seven documents by writers and witnesses from the past, both black and white, that offer perspectives on the trade and movement of slaves. Many elucidate the long-standing discord between North and South over the issue of slavery.

Documents are divided into three parts that cover the African slave trade, the internal U.S. slave trade, and the series of conflicts and crises that led to the Civil War. They cover a variety of topics including the forced transport of slaves throughout East Coast and Gulf Coast states, buying and selling of slaves, increasingly contentious debates over the legitimacy of slavery, and effects of the breakup of families. The volume concludes with a brilliant essay by Frederick Douglass that asks the question: "What shall be done with the Negro?"

Robert Edgar Conrad is Center Associate in the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh and an independent scholar. His book Children of God's Fire: A Documentary History of Black Slavery in Brazil (1994) is published by Penn State Press.

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