The Economist, a 171-year-old British-based political magazine with a circulation of more than 1.5 million, published a review last week of a recent book on the history of slavery in the United States that blasted the book for claiming slaves were “victims.”
But after an online outcry against the anonymously-penned review, The Economist has now pulled the review and apologized, acknowledging that slavery was indeed “an evil system.”
The review of the new book The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, also criticized author Ed Baptist for portraying white slave owners as “villains,” dismissing the book as “not history” but “advocacy” because it allegedly presented a one-sided view that depicted slavery as an all-around bad thing.
The review said that Baptist, in recounting the terrible abuse endured by black slaves at the hands of their white “masters,” relied on anecdotes told by slaves themselves who did not “adequately speak for all” slaves.
In other words, Baptist may have overlooked some slaves who had a much rosier view of their captivity and enslavement, the review seemed to say.
On Saturday, citing the backlash, The Economist yanked the review from its online site, and issued an apology that acknowledged that slavery was, in fact, a very bad thing.
“There has been widespread criticism of this (review), and rightly so,” The Economist said on its site. “Slavery was an evil system, in which the great majority of victims were blacks, and the great majority of whites involved in slavery were willing participants and beneficiaries of that evil. We regret having published this and apologize for having done so. We are therefore withdrawing the review.”
The review argued that tales of abuse by white slave owners were likely exaggerated because the slave owners had a lot of money invested in their black slaves and therefore would have an economic interest to keep them in good physical and mental health. In fact, the review speculated, benevolent treatment of slaves by their owners may have resulted in a rise in cotton productivity.
The Economist review featured a picture of actress Lupita Nyong’o, who played the character Patsey in the 2013 Oscar-winning motion picture 12 Years A Slave, with the caption, “Patsey was certainly valuable property.”
“Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery,” said the now-pulled, unbylined review. “Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.”