Newspaper logo  
   "Cash for Blood" Details City’s Sorry Slavery History


Cash for Blood Details City’s Sorry Slavery History

by Alice Cherbonnier

This is history with an inhuman face.

Ralph Clayton, Pratt Library research assistant and freelance writer, has published over the years a number of stories uncovering Baltimore’s hidden history, especially regarding the city’s role in slave trafficking.

Now Clayton has taken a major step forward with the publication of Cash for Blood (, 680 pages, $48.50), which documents in chilling detail the who, what, why, where, when, and how much of the ongoing practice of slave trading between Baltimore and New Orleans from the early 1800s to the Civil War. This trade became more active as Maryland became less dependent on slaves; owners sought to sell their “surplus assets” further south, where there was still a demand.

This is not easy reading. Luckily, Clayton writes powerful and well, sweeping the reader down the still-existing streets of Fell’s Point, providing images of a very different, very repellent era of our civic history.

Clayton lays out the language and practice of slave trading with admirable simplicity, letting the facts, and the well-chosen contemporaneous historical statements, speak eloquently for themselves. Imagine what it means for would-be slave buyers to “read bodies.”

Not only were there slave auctions here; there were even slave brokerage houses and slave agencies. Of course, this is in addition to the private sales of slaves. The prices brought show the slave trade was big business—and potentially very profitable. Except, of course, for the slaves.

Clayton names names. Were any of your ancestors involved in slave trafficking in Baltimore—as buyers, sellers, ship captains, antislavers? Were any of your ancestors on the Slave Manifest or Vessels rosters? Clayton lists it all.

He’s footnoted every chapter, and referenced early newspapers and journals and a number of history books; cited early manuscripts; and gathered information from visits to historical societies and libraries.

This book is the culmination of an enduring interest—passion?—of one person—a caucasian married to an African-American—who is determined to set the record straight for future generations. It will prove invaluable to researchers and genealogists.

We salute Ralph Clayton for his extraordinary accomplishment, and urge our readers to seek out his book.

The public’s interest in Cash for Blood has already proven to be more than casual. At a Feb. 1 book signing in the Poe Room of the Pratt Library, Clayton was confronted with an overflow crowd of 125 persons—reportedly the largest crowd ever to gather in that august venue.

What’s next for Clayton? He’s already at work researching Baltimore’s role in the underground railroad.

Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on March 5, 2003.
MARCH 2003
3/5 Sports: Death of a Prospect: Steve Bechler, 1979-2003
3/5 ‘Treatment, Not Prison’ Says MD Budget Study
3/5 Environmental Crisis Center Struggles
3/5 Funding for Legal Services for the Poor In Jeopardy
3/5 Court Clarifies Procedures of ‘Victims’ Rights’ Laws
3/5 Local Assistant Principal Gets National Honor
3/5 State’s Unemployment Benefits Among Lowest
3/5 100K Trash Cans for the City
3/18 Letters
 3/21Open Letter to The Sun
 3/19An Open Letter to Americans from a Concerned German
  3/5 Another Open Letter To America from a Canadian
  3/11 Open Letter to President Bush
  3/11 Open Letter to Maryland's Senators
  3/12 An Open Letter from Veterans for Peace and Military Families To Maryland's Senators and Congresspersons
  3/12 Open Letter to the "Major Media" Cohorts of the "Chicken Hawk" White House Agenda
3/5Book: Cash for Blood Details City’s Sorry Slavery History
3/5Book: Painful Questions Dares to Address 9/11
3/5Best Films of 2002: ‘The Pianist’ and ‘Rings’ Towers’
3/5Book: No Better Time to Read No Greater Threat
3/5Book: Bio of Miles Davis Distills His Genius
3/5Quotes: Philosophical Musings
3/5Words of Wisdom from James Madison
3/5Where’s the Media Coverage of ‘Patriot II’?
3/5Liberal Talk Show Set to Provide Alternative to Limbaugh
3/28 EDITORIAL: MD Legislators Consider Stealth Anti-Small Business Taxes
3/19 Progressive and Neo-Conservative Journalists Face Off on Iraq
3/5Where Are Our ‘Commons’ for Free Speech?
3/5Blizzard of ’03: Will Bush Listen to Cold Questions?
3/5Why the ‘Drug War’ is Racist
3/5What Would You Do If You Saw Your Nation Going Fascist?
3/5Why Haven’t I Done More to Oppose War in Iraq?
3/5Viewpoint from Europe: What Went Wrong?
3/5 WV ‘Mountaintop Removal’ Alarms Environmentalists
3/5On Asbestosis, Health Insurance, & Union Work
3/28 Republicans defeat conflict of interest amendments to Procurement Bill, including one prohibiting chemical and biological weapons sales
3/13 The Administration Plays "Russian Roulette" With Our Economy
3/5 “L’affaire Chavez”: Larry Birns on How Venezuela Can Avoid Civil War
3/5 US Must Budget Enough for States’ Security Needs
3/5 The Real American Taliban
3/5 It’s Okay to Eat Belgian Chocolate
3/5 Right Livelihood Awards
3/5 ‘Death Tax’ Deception
3/5 Quick Political Scholastic Aptitude Test
3/5 “The Righteous War”
  Websites We Like!
  Outstanding Analysis & Perspective

Public Service Ads: