Reviews for Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade : Setting the Record Straight


Book News Reviews
Faber (history, City U. of New York) offers empirical refutation of the claims made in the notoriously influential 1991 Nation of Islam publication, The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews, that Jews played a largely disproportionate role in the slave trade. Focusing on the British empire and citing original sources such as shipping and tax records, stock-transfer ledgers, censuses, slave registers, and synagogue records, Faber establishes that Jewish participation in the slave trade was indeed minimal. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

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Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 August 1998
In recent years, allegations by certain black nationalist publications that Jews "dominated" the African slave trade have threatened to become a new blood libel against Jews. Faber, currently professor of history at John Jay College in New York City, has provided a well-written and superbly researched counterpoint to those smears. Although he concentrates on Jews as a factor within the British imperial system, Faber also examines the role of Jews as slave owners and traders within Spanish and Portuguese domains. This is not an easy read, and laymen may find the wealth of data a bit overwhelming. Still, Faber generally handles a complicated and controversial subject with objectivity and fairness; most readers should share his conclusion that, while individual Jews certainly participated in the slave trade, overall Jewish involvement was marginal. ((Reviewed August 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Choice Reviews 1999 February
Faber's book results from allegations that Jews dominated the slave trade and owned slaves in numbers disproportionate to others in the white population. Faber sets out to disprove both allegations. He inquires into Jewish participation in the transatlantic slave trade as investors, ship owners, slave owners, and merchants. Often determining who was Jewish by surnames, Faber uses public records, synagogue records, wills, and census returns. Focusing on the British empire, he begins with London and finds negligible participation by Jews. In the West Indies, where slaves were numerous, he demonstrates with abundant statistics that Jews did not control the institution of slavery. Similar findings characterize British North America, where Jews in small numbers lived in Newport, New York, Charleston, and Savannah. His narrative occupies only 146 pages but is supplemented by very valuable appendixes, a wealth of notes, and a 28-page bibliography. Faber's persuasive account differs from Saul S. Friedman's Jews and the American Slave Trade (CH, Sep'98), which becomes ad hominem and extends beyond the close of the legal trade. Rich in scholarship, well crafted and well written, Faber's work is appropriate for college and university libraries as well as a wider sophisticated readership. All levels. Copyright 1999 American Library Association

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Kirkus Reviews 1998 August #1
Despite the polemical subtitle, a scholarly and meticulously researched account of Jewish participation in the slave trade in the British colonies of the Caribbean and in the US. In 1991, the Historical Research Department of the Nation of Islam published an inflammatory document entitled The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, which charged that Jews had financed and dominated the slave trade in the American colonies and early US. According to Faber (History/John Jay College, City University of New York), this study's conclusions have been widely accepted as fact, despite grave defects in historical methodology, with deleterious consequences for historical scholarship and race relations. Here limiting his study to slavery in the British Atlantic colonies in the 17th through the 19th centuries, the author uses primary source material, including shipping and tax records and other commercial documents, to refute the anti-Semitic theme of The Secret Relationship. Faber concludes that Jewish involvement in the Atlantic slave trade was exceedingly limited: by successively examining the small, (initially predominantly Sephardic) Jewish communities of Barbados, Nevis, and Jamaica, and mainland colonies like Newport and New York City, Faber persuasively demonstrates that Jewish participation in the slave trade in each area consisted of tiny percentages of slave sales and ownership, from the earliest years of settlement through the abolition of the slave trade in the 19th century. A well-researched study that neither allocates blame nor exonerates the participants in the peculiar institution, but puts to rest a pernicious anti-Semitic libel of recent coinage. Copyright 1998 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1998 July #4
In response to the outrageous accusations leveled against Jews by Nation of Islam preachers and some other black nationalists, this scrupulously researched book details the actual role Jews played in the Atlantic slave trade. Faber, a professor of history at the City University of New York, has pored over tax records shipping manifests, Royal Naval Office records, and contemporary accounts of Jewish life to discover the unsurprising truth: the majority of Jews in England's Caribbean and North American colonies were merchants and tradesmen, lived in towns rather than on farms or plantations and owned approximately the same number of slaves as their non-Jewish town-dwelling neighbors. The Sephardic Jews' knowledge of languages and their family and religious connections to communities all over the world gave them advantages as traders, but they preferred to import fabrics and silver rather than slaves. While some Jews did engage in the slave trade, and a large number of Jewish households in Jamaica and Barbados owned a few slaves, the tiny number of Jews living in the English colonies at the time made their involvement minimal. The slave trade was run by and for the benefit of non-Jews, and was finally brought to an end by the same people. Packed with statistics (one-half of the book is appendices and footnotes), this isn't easy reading, but Faber's scholarship is stunning. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the insight it gives into historical research. If those claiming the Jews enslaved millions of Africans can't discover the truth, it's because they don't want to. (Sept.) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews

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