Carry Me Back

The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life


Originating with the birth of the nation itself, in many respects, the story of the domestic slave trade is also the story of the early United States. While an external traffic in slaves had always been present, following the American Revolution this was replaced by a far more vibrant internal trade. Most importantly, an interregional commerce in slaves developed that turned human property into one of the most valuable forms of investment in the country, second only to land. In fact, this form of property became so valuable that when threatened with its ultimate extinction in 1860, southern slave owners believed they had little alternative but to leave the Union. Therefore, while the interregional trade produced great wealth for many people, and the nation, it also helped to tear the country apart.The domestic slave trade likewise played a fundamental role in antebellum American society. Led by professional traders, who greatly resembled northern entrepreneurs, this traffic was a central component in the market revolution of the early nineteenth century. In addition, the development of an extensive local trade meant that the domestic trade, in all its configurations, was a prominent feature in southern life. Yet, this indispensable part of the slave system also raised many troubling questions. For those outside the South, it affected their impression of both the region and the new nation. For slaveholders, it proved to be the most difficult part of their institution to defend. And for those who found themselves commodities in this trade, it was something that needed to be resisted at all costs.Carry Me Back restores the domestic slave trade to the prominent place that it deserves in early American history, exposing the many complexities of southern slavery and antebellum American life.
  • Oxford University Press; April 2005
  • ISBN 9780198036395
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Carry Me Back
  • Author: Steven Deyle
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"Carry Me Back is a book we have long needed--a synthetic, region-wide treatment of the domestic slave trade. Deyle's deep research and lucid writing convincingly show that the sale and transport of human property from the upper to lower South was a national tragedy of epic proportions, a grand economic enterprise that both forged the Cotton Kingdom and was the root of its undoing. Behold! The story of how the largest source of wealth in antebellum America belongs at the center of our national narrative, and how it haunts us still."--David W. Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory and Director, the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, Yale University
"Prodigiously researched and convincingly argued, Steven Deyle's Carry Me Back places the slave market at the center of the nineteenth-century United States. Carry Me Back tells the story of the disastrous effects of that market on black lives, of its crucial place in the Southern market revolution being pursued by their white masters, and of the role of images of the trade in the argument of nineteenth-century opponents of slavery. The information necessary to dismantle U.S. slavery, it turns out, was produced along the bloody leading edge of its commercial economy."--Walter Johnson, author of Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market
"Carry Me Back takes us far beyond what we already know about the importance of the domestic slave trade. Steven Deyle shows us just how tightly entwined the domestic slave trade actually became with the overall development of the nation itself, North no less than South, and how it dictated the direction of our history in so many significant ways. Ambitiously conceived and skillfully executed, this is a study that all students of the antebellum era surely must read."--James Brewer Stewart, author of Holy Warriors: The Abolitionists and American Slavery

About The Author

Steven Deyle is Associate Professor of History at the University of Houston.