In This Review

Jews and the American Slave Trade
Jews and the American Slave Trade
By Saul S. Friedman
Transaction Publishers, 1998, 326 pp
Purchase

In this thorough and scholarly account, Friedman, who is a professor of Jewish and Middle Eastern History at Youngstown State, provides a detailed and utterly convincing refutation of the claims by the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan that Jews dominated the transatlantic slave trade. Friedman has done an extraordinary amount of digging and examines the wide sweep of history as well as tackling Farrakan's claims in detail. He looks at antiquity, examines Marranos in Spain and Spanish America, and the "New Christians," descendants of Jews forcibly converted to Christianity in Portugal in the late fifteenth century, who were a sizable component of the merchant population in the Portuguese overseas territories in Brazil and Africa. He reviews Holland and the West Indies in the seventeenth century and concludes with several chapters on the antebellum American South. His overall conclusion is that Jews played a small role. How much impact Friedman's book will have remains to be seen, but Friedman is right to say that the silence most academics prefer on this question is no answer.