Novelist and psychotherapist Ford (Think Black) unearths in this fascinating history the inextricable links between America’s “systems of power” and the horrors of slavery. From the arrival of enslaved Africans in 17th-century Virginia to the end of Reconstruction in 1877, Ford reveals how “Black lives created White wealth and power,” and how African Americans have been met with “outright betrayal and brutality” when they asked for their fair share.

He details how the slave trade spurred shipbuilding and other technological advancements, and notes that the modern-day stock and insurance markets were developed in Amsterdam, London, and other European capitals with ties to the slave trade. Ford also explains how enslaved laborers were essential to the tobacco and cotton industries in the U.S. and helped build the first railways in the South, and details how land redistributed to freed Blacks during the Civil War was returned to former slaveholders after President Lincoln’s assassination. Throughout, Ford weaves in stories of resistance, noting, for instance, that a Black ship captain “helped foment the largest slave rebellion in South Carolina history”; explains complex financial instruments in lucid terms; and paints vivid scenes of Black life in the U.S. The result is an essential reckoning with the roots of the racial wealth gap in America. 

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