New Slavery Exhibit at the Frazier

shacklesMy latest piece for The Wall Street Journal Leisure and Arts page is about the new slavery exhibit at the Frazier History Museum in Louisville.
It’s the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and many museums are taking a look at the document itself. The Frazier has taken a different tack and is actually looking at the instituion of slavery.
Here’s a snippet:

The museum hits its stride when it gets into the details of human trafficking. What’s refreshing about this exhibit—and makes it well worth seeing, no matter how uncomfortable it sometimes may make you feel—is the curators’ dispassionate examination of the slave trade. Was it horrible and cruel? Of course it was. But rather than look at slavery through the 21st-century prism of a more enlightened society, this exhibit presents the facts, stripped of any moral or political commentary, and looks at the business of the slave trade.

It explains that the Americas were not the only world market for slave labor in the 15th and 16th centuries. The exhibit, using maps, journals and ship logs, shows how Muslims sold Christians—an estimated 1.5 million Europeans—into slavery in North Africa.

Another central theme is that slavery was not a product of bigotry, but of business needs. Europeans required vast amounts of cheap labor in the Americas. Ship captains needed a well-paying cargo to haul back to the Americas after having delivered sugar and tobacco to Europe. And African kingdoms—themselves teeming with slave labor and very much active participants—needed a place to get rid of the strongest and most unruly among the slave class, lest they foment rebellion.

About Mark Yost
Mark Yost is the author of the Rick Crane Noir series, published by Stay Thirsty Press. Rick Crane is the classic, anti-hero private eye in the spirit of Sam Spade and Jim Rockford. He works in the unmistakably noirish underworld of Upstate New York, running errands and fixing problems for Jimmy Ricchiati Sr., one of Upstate New York's most notorious crime bosses. But readers quickly learn that deep down, Rick Crane is one of the good guys. "Cooper's Daughter," the first book in the widely acclaimed series, is a fast-moving tale in which a heartbroken father comes to Rick and asks him to find out what really happened to his daughter, who was murdered and the details buried in the Unsolved Crimes File of the local police department. The second book in the series is "Jimmy's Nephew," which begins with the death of Joey "Boom Boom" Bonadeo, an up-and-coming boxer and the nephew of Rick's underworld boss. What starts out as a routine investigation turns into a case that will test Rick's faith -- in the Catholic Church and his fellow man. Book No. 3 in the series, "Mary's Fate" is due out in August 2015. Mark Yost also writes for The Wall Street Journal Arts in Review page, as well as the Book Review section. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America -- Midwest Chapter, International Thriller Writers, and a number of other author groups. He is also a member of the Amazon Author's Program. Mark lives in the Loyola neighborhood of Chicago, but he and his son, George, call the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn "home."

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