Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade

Setting the Record Straight

386 pages

July, 2000

ISBN: 9780814726396



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Eli Faber is Professor of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York, and author of A Time for Planting: The First Migration, 1654-1828, the first volume in the five-volume The Jewish People in America.

All books by Eli Faber

In the wake of the civil rights movement, a great divide has opened up between African American and Jewish communities. What was historically a harmonious and supportive relationship has suffered from a powerful and oft-repeated legend, that Jews controlled and masterminded the slave trade and owned slaves on a large scale, well in excess of their own proportion in the population.

In this groundbreaking book, likely to stand as the definitive word on the subject, Eli Faber cuts through this cloud of mystification to recapture an important chapter in both Jewish and African diasporic history.
Focusing on the British empire, Faber assesses the extent to which Jews participated in the institution of slavery through investment in slave trading companies, ownership of slave ships, commercial activity as merchants who sold slaves upon their arrival from Africa, and direct ownership of slaves. His unprecedented original research utilizing shipping and tax records, stock-transfer ledgers, censuses, slave registers, and synagogue records reveals, once and for all, the minimal nature of Jews' involvement in the subjugation of Africans in the Americas.

A crucial corrective, Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade lays to rest one of the most contested historical controversies of our time.


  • "The only way to set the record straight is to do what those making the claim [of Jewish domination of the slave trade and widespread slave ownership] have failed to do, namely sift through the entire body of evidence, with a view to determining the scale and nature of the Jewish contribution. This is precisely what Faber does."

    —Howard Temperley, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Extremely thorough . . . convincing."

    Journal of American History

  • "Stunning."

    Publishers Weekly

  • "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."

    Kirkus Reviews

  • "For anyone in search of ammunition to refute farfetched claims about Jewish culpability for the enslavement of Africans in America, this is the place to look."

    —Peter Kolchin, Los Angeles Times