Analysis Of River Of Dark Dreams: Slavery And Empire In The Cotton Kingdom By Walter Johnson

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The study of slavery in the southern half of the United States prior to the Civil War examines the institution in a capitalistic sense, choosing to see the punishment of slaves as unlikely due to the paternalistic relationship that allegedly existed between slaves and their masters. Recently, historiographical texts, such as River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom by Walter Johnson, have taken up the mantle of disproving this. In his introduction, Johnson describes the institution of slavery as such: "The Cotton Kingdom was built out of sun, water, and soil; animal energy, human labor, and mother wit; grain, flesh, and cotton; pain, hunger, and fatigue; blood, milk, semen, and shit." In regards to the title of his book, Johnson asserts that the importance of slavery in terms of economic history did not lie with Massachusetts, but along the Mississippi River, additionally dismantling prior historiography surrounding slavery. Serving as the major thesis of his book, Johnson convincingly and ambitiously argues that slaves labored, resisted, and reproduced in the Mississippi Valley Region, and it was the response by southerners to material limitations, such as land degradation, in this region that slaveholders increasingly projected their power onto…show more content…
Through his incredible array of sourcing that includes both primary and secondary sourcing, there is much to take away from this book that previous works do not include. While there are brief areas of criticism that can be stated about this book, Walter Johnson provides the literature of the Old South with a comprehensive, yet a refreshing take on the importance and devastation of
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