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Once enslaved laborers arrived in the Americas and were sold off slave ships, they were confronted with their new status as commodities. To be exposed to the marketplace was a constant reminder that in the colonies one’s connection to kinfolk was precarious at best. Chapter 5, “‘The Division of the Captives’: Commerce and Kinship in the English Americas,” argues that the role of markets as the antithesis of kinship was at the core of the brutal lessons captives had to quickly learn. That lesson was driven home by myriad acts of sale as merchants grouped commodities and people. The sale of women and girls brought with it a particular set of contradictions—organized around the promise of sex and reproduction, even as those sales destroyed the kin ties that were the evidence of reproductive potential. At the same time, the refusal to relinquish kinship and kin ties was at the heart of captives’ opposition to enslavement.

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