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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 215

Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market focuses on often neglected parts of the slave trade. The author relies on many firsthand sources at the time, including the one from Solomon Northup, who wrote the autobiography 12 Years a Slave, which was also recently made into a popular movie a few years ago.

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The book has some criticism for the tendency to use clinical and distancing methods for referencing the slave trade, such as with numbers and pie graphs since this only serves to dehumanize the people involved further. This is in-line with other writers such as W.E.B. Dubois, who emphasize the importance of bringing the victims’ voices back into the light of day.

This book is striking in that it focuses on these first account documents. In particular, it focuses on the New Orleans slave market, which was the largest in the United States. The author, Johnson, also brings to light topics and combinations of topics that aren’t talked about as much, such as how the interactions between auctioneers and slaves being purchased offered opportunities to both parties, since slaves could encourage or discourage a sale based on their answers. In this way, they got some minuscule measure of power to go where they wanted or keep their families together.

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