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Importing Slaves

In response to:

The New Civil War from the April 23, 1992 issue

To the Editors:

Andrew Hacker in his review of books about race [“The New Civil War,” NYR, April 23] contrasts other industrial countries with the US and makes the statement that “none of them imported several million slaves to become permanent residents.”

Neither did America. According to C. Vann Woodward, “During the whole period of the Atlantic slave trade, legal and illegal, British North America (including Louisiana) received 427,000 or only 4.5 percent of the total imports.” [C. Vann Woodward, The Future of the Past (Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 150.] By 1865 the descendants of these 427,000 numbered 4,500,000.

William Cawthon
Montgomery, Alabama

Andrew Hacker replies:

Of course, Mr. Cawthon is correct. The last antebellum census, conducted in 1860, counted 3,953,760 slaves and 488,070 free blacks. They were the “several million” I had in mind. Together, these two groups accounted for 14.1 percent of the 1860 population, which is quite close to the adjusted 1990 black figure of 12.5 percent.

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