Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

1/1/2014 - 12/31/2014

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$48,000.18 (awarded)

The Value of Human Chattel from Preconception to Postmortem

FAIN: FA-57651-14

Daina Ramey Berry
University of Texas, Austin (Austin, TX 78712-0100)

The Price for their Pound of Flesh explores public and private market transactions and appraisals of enslaved men, women, and children in the American domestic slave trade from before birth to after death. Structurally, this study examines slave prices during enslaved people’s "lifecycle" including preconception, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, the senior years, and postmortem. An important component of the study is its illumination of bondpeople’s reaction to being appraised, bartered, and sold. The book explores slaves as commodities and as people and it looks at the monetary values assigned to slaves at different phases of their lives. This study relies on a database of 81,182 individual enslaved values from nine states, of which 72,335 reflect appraisals and 8,847 represent market prices. This book also introduces the Domestic Cadaver Slave Trade, where deceased slaves were illegally sold to physicians and medical schools for anatomical research.

Media Coverage

In 'The Price for Their Pound of FLesh,' Black Bodies Matter (Review)
Author(s): Manisha Sinha
Publication: The Boston Glove
Date: 2/10/2017

How Slaves Maintained Their Personal Value Even While on the Auction Block (Review)
Author(s): Wiley Hall, 3rd
Publication: THe Washington Post
Date: 4/14/2017

The Price for their Pound of FLesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (Review)
Publication: Publisher's Weekly
Date: 2/1/2017
Abstract: Starred review.

Associated Products

The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (Book)
Title: The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation
Author: Daina Ramey Berry
Abstract: In life and in death, slaves were commodities, their monetary value assigned based on their age, gender, health, and the demands of the market. 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 preconception, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, the senior years, and death—in the early American domestic slave trade. Covering the full “life cycle,” historian Daina Ramey Berry shows the lengths to which enslavers would go to maximize profits and protect their investments. Illuminating “ghost values” or the prices placed on dead enslaved people, Berry explores the little-known domestic cadaver trade and traces the illicit sales of dead bodies to medical schools. This book is the culmination of more than ten years of Berry’s exhaustive research on enslaved values, drawing on data unearthed from sources such as slave-trading records, insurance policies, cemetery records, and life insurance policies. Writing with sensitivity and depth, she resurrects the voices of the enslaved and provides a rare window into enslaved peoples’ experiences and thoughts, revealing how enslaved people recalled and responded to being appraised, bartered, and sold throughout the course of their lives. Reaching out from these pages, they compel the reader to bear witness to their stories, to see them as human beings, not merely commodities. A profoundly humane look at an inhumane institution, The Price for Their Pound of Flesh will have a major impact how we think about slavery, reparations, capitalism, nineteenth-century medical education, and the value of life and death.
Year: 2017
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Author's information in Worldcat
Secondary URL: http://
Secondary URL Description: Author's personal website.
Publisher: Beacon Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780807047620
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes

Berry Slave Value Database (Database/Archive/Digital Edition)
Title: Berry Slave Value Database
Author: Daina Ramey Berry
Abstract: This study uses historical records from 36 archives in the United States to analyze 8,437 enslaved people’s sale and/or appraisal prices from 1797 to 1865. Demographic information, including name, year, age/age group, gender, state, and trade/skill notations were recorded when applicable. By calculating average appraisal and sale values across cross-sections of gender (male or female) and age group (0-10 years old, 11-22 years old, 23-39 years old, and 40+ years old), a total of sixteen major comparative prices were analyzed (app/male/0-10; app/female/0-10; sale/male/0-10; sale/female/0-10; app/male/11-22; app/female/11-22; sale/male/11-22; sale/female/11-22; app/male/23-39; app/female/23-39; sale/male/23-39; sale/female/23-39; app/male/40+; app/female/40+; sale/male/40+; sale/female/40+). Scholars have the opportunity to use this data set to understand how enslaved people were valued and appraised. The demographic data included will be useful to those who want to explore various aspects of the history of slavery and enslaved people.
Year: 2017
Primary URL:
Access Model: Open access


Phillis Wheatley Literary Award
Date: 6/2/2018
Organization: Son's and Daughters of the US Middle Passage
Abstract: Awarded for the best book detailing Historical-Academic Research.

Best Book Award 2018
Date: 7/21/2018
Organization: Society for the History of the Early American Republic (SHEAR)
Abstract: The SHEAR Book Prize is awarded to an original monograph that makes a significant contribution to the historiography of the early American republic.

Finalist for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize
Date: 7/26/2018
Organization: The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition
Abstract: Each year, the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History awards the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, an annual award for the most outstanding non-fiction book in English on the subject of slavery, resistance, and/or abolition.