Harvard University Press was kind enough to send me a review copy of Walter Johnson’s new book, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom. I am only beginning to make my through it, but I am very enthusiastic given how much I enjoyed Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. I am hoping that the book helps to fill at least part of the whole in my understanding of slavery’s connection to the broader Atlantic World. The only book that I’ve read that directly addresses this subject is Edward Rugemer’s The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War, which I found to be incredibly helpful as I worked to better understand the massacre of USCTs at the Crater by Confederates.
Hopefully, I will have something more to say about the book in the coming weeks, but for now I want to leave you with a short video of Johnson discussing the subject of the book. What I love about this video is how he describes the slight shift in the kind of question that drove his research. It’s so subtle and yet it immediately opens up any number of interesting and potentially fruitful lines of inquiry. I always emphasize to my students the importance of asking the right question at the beginning of the research process. With their projects right around the corner I may utilize this video to make just that point.