Author: David Brion Davis
Publisher: Oxford University Press
• Ties together a number of historical, philosophical, and sociological issues
• Generally very readable and informative
• Includes background information on Western slavery in general
• Narrative is a bit disorganized at times and wanders in some places
• History of American slavery and the issues surrounding it
• Describes slavery as a process of dehumanization, based largely on the example of the domestication of animals
There are a lot of books on slavery in America, so it would be difficult to single out any one volume above the rest. David Brion Davis' Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World does, however, have a few things which recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. The title itself gives a hint to one of the main things and one of the reasons why this book stands out from others.
"Inhuman" bondage describes the very nature of America's race-based slave system because it was designed at every level to take away the humanity of those enslaved and thereby reinforce the humanity - not to mention superiority - of those who did the enslaving. Davis even argues that the enslavement of human beings relied in many ways on concepts and ideas taken from the domestication of animals.
Dehumanization was the defining factor of slavery generally throughout the world, but it had special meaning for America's slave system. This may have been because, unlike many slave systems around the world, America's was permanent and racial. Other societies enslaved "outsiders," but in America the outsiders were permanently marked by the color of their skin. In this, America's slave system was supported by American religion: the Bible informed Christians that slaves weren't fully equal humans but descendants of Cain and Canaan, marked by God to be inferior and servants of others.
Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World, by David Brion