Stephen Hicks, "The Stain of Slavery"

Session 5

Stephen Hicks, "The Stain of Slavery"

Session 5

Episode #19 of Open College Podcast


Topics: The decline of slavery as a moral achievement // History: Slavery practiced everywhere before modernity // The internal African slave society and trades // The Atlantic trade and where the slaves went // Early American anti-slavery voices // Wilberforce and the British // The French // The lesson of anti-slavery history: steps but not automatic, the Humanism and the Enlightenment // Does religion get credit? // Contemporary battles over slavery’s legacy // Methodological individualism in apportioning blame and credit.

Transcription:  Forthcoming.


  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr. “Ending the Slavery Blame-Game.” The New York Times. April 23, 2010.
  • Don Jordan and Michael Walsh, White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America. New York University Press, 2008.
  • Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior of Africa. See “Chapter 22 – War and Slavery.” Based on his experiences with African natives, Park wrote: “whatever difference there is between the negro and European, in the conformation of the nose, and the colour of the skin, there is none in the genuine sympathies and characteristic feelings of our common nature.” (Source)
  • “Slave” etymology. Wiktionary.
  • Slave Ports, West Africa 1870.
  • Slave Trade from Africa to the Americas 1650-1860.
  • Sheldon M. Stern, “The Atlantic Slave Trade.” Academic Questions 18:3 (Summer 2005), 16-34.
  • William Wilberforce. Excerpt from 1789 Parliament speech: “I must speak of the transit of the slaves in the West Indies. This I confess, in my own opinion, is the most wretched part of the whole subject. So much misery condensed in so little room, is more than the human imagination had ever before conceived. I will not accuse the Liverpool merchants: I will allow them, nay, I will believe them to be men of humanity; and I will therefore believe, if it were not for the enormous magnitude and extent of the evil which distracts their attention from individual cases, and makes them think generally, and therefore less feelingly on the subject, they would never have persisted in the trade. I verily believe therefore, if the wretchedness of any one of the many hundred Negroes stowed in each ship could be brought before their view, and remain within the sight of the African Merchant, that there is no one among them whose heart would bear it. Let any one imagine to himself 6 or 700 of these wretches chained two and two, surrounded with every object that is nauseous and disgusting, diseased, and struggling under every kind of wretchedness! How can we bear to think of such a scene as this? … As soon as ever I had arrived thus far in my investigation of the slave trade, I confess to you sir, so enormous so dreadful, so irremediable did its wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for the abolition. A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the policy be what it might,—let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had effected its abolition.”

​The complete series of Open College with Stephen Hicks podcasts.

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