Latest Publication

The Price for Their Pound of Flesh

The Value of the Enslaved from Womb to Grave, in the Building of A Nation


The Price for Their Pound of Flesh is the first book to explore the economic value of enslaved people through every phase of their lives – including from before birth to after death – in the American domestic slave trades. Covering the full “life cycle” (including preconception, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, the senior years, and death), historian Daina Berry shows the lengths to which slaveholders would go to maximize profits. She draws from over ten years of research to explore how enslaved people responded to being appraised, bartered, and sold.

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Tour Dates


Washington Post : Cape Up


Click on the picture to the left to hear an interview with Daina Ramey Berry and Jonathan Capehart as she discusses the relevance of The Price for Their Pound of Flesh in today's political moment. Check out the accompanying article here.

KERA : Think


Listen as Daina Ramey Berry explores the financial intricacies of slavery and how the enslaved responded to and resisted their commodification.

WNYC : The Takeaway
The Legacy of Slavery and The Value of Black Life in America

In a new book, The Price for Their Pound of Flesh, author Daina Ramey Berry puts a price tag on slavery, and explores how slaves were used as commodities through every stage of life in early America. Berry is also a professor of history at University of Texas at Austin.

Lecture Series : Faculty Book Launch
The Legacy of Slavery and The Value of Black Life in America


"Now that the proverbial white sheet has been pulled off not-so-hidden notions of racial supremacy, the world knows what many African-Americans have known all along: The real and metaphorical devaluation of Black bodies is not imaginary nor selective. It’s here, it’s real and it’s in control. The ascendancy of Donald Trump has sparked new conversation around reparations, the unpaid debt descendants of freed slaves never received. As society understands more about the generational roots of income inequality in general and the role of structural racism in particular, knowing how White society really feels about African-Americans really forces a new perspective on the whole thing." Read more...
—The Crisis

"'The Price for Their Pound of Flesh' is a poignant, at times startling, look at how individuals were able to maintain their dignity and sense of self-worth under slavery. With remarkable detail, Daina Ramey Berry explores the exact amounts paid for slaves and how those prices were determined. But she isn’t content to catalogue mere market values. She also takes great pains to document the value enslaved people placed on their own personhood, what she calls their 'soul values.'" Read more...
—Washington Post


"Unlike some recent books on slavery and capitalism, however, Berry pays systematic attention to the ways in which the enslaved sought to counteract the ruthless economic exploitation of their bodies and labor. Focusing closely on how slaves were valued from conception to their death and beyond, she gets to the dark heart of southern slavery, the commodification of human beings." Read more...

—Boston Globe

"Crucially, Berry also delves into the annals of slave communities to explore the emotional strategies by which the enslaved resisted their reduction to an 'exchangeable commodity,' centering their lives on spiritual beliefs that defined the soul, rather than the body, as the true location of their individuality. Berry’s groundbreaking work in the historiography of American slavery deserves a wide readership beyond academia." Read more...

—Publishers Weekly

“In this sharp, affecting study, Berry reminds us of the cold calculus at the intersection of slavery and capitalism...A well-researched, effectively presented piece of scholarship that forthrightly confronts slavery's brute essence." Read more...

—Kirkus Reviews