The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War

Bold Type. Oct. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781568587523. $28. HIST
In this latest work, Wells (Blind No More) exposes the illegal slave trade in New York in the years prior to the Civil War. Although slavery was abolished in the city in 1827, many New Yorkers had no misgivings about the institution as they profited greatly from slave-grown cotton, especially Wall Street banks that financed Southern slaveholders. In fact, Wells reveals that New York’s dramatic rise into a financial powerhouse and cosmopolitan center was largely due to slavery. As a result, the city was an extremely dangerous place for Black Americans as numerous free and fugitive Black men, women, and children were targeted for kidnapping by their fellow New Yorkers. Dubbed the “Kidnapping Club” by abolitionist David Ruggles, the group responsible sanctioned the kidnapping of free Blacks in order to sell them slavery. While not an organized group, kidnappers consisted of a network of political authorities, judges, lawyers, police officers, and bankers; all of whom had something to gain at the expense of human rights. Well’s lively writing style and skillful portrayal of the culture of mid-19th century America further adds to this excellent work.
VERDICT This compelling work is highly recommended for those who like history and readers interested in social justice.
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