Americans tend to think that only the South or only slave traders and slave owners benefited from slavery.
But it was not that simple. Slaves and land were the main forms of wealth in the US before 1860. Therefore slaves figured in insurance policies and bank loans. Therefore universities turned to slave owners and slave traders to raise money. Industry in the North and in Britain made money processing slave-grown tobacco, cotton and sugar from the South and the Caribbean. Railway companies used slave labour. The most profitable activity on Wall Street was – the slave trade.
AIG – bought American General Financial which owns US Life Insurance Company. US Life used to insure the lives of slaves.
Aetna – insured the lives of slaves in the 1850s.
Bank of America – grew in part out of the Bank of Metropolis, which accepted slaves as collateral.
Brooks Brothers – got its start making clothes for slaves!
Brown Brothers Harriman – a Wall Street bank that owned hundreds of slaves and lent millions to Southern planters, merchants and cotton traders.
Brown University – named for the Brown brothers who gave money to the university. Two were slave traders, another ran a factory that used slave-grown cotton. University Hall was built in part by slave labour.
CSX – rented slaves to build rail lines.
Fleet Boston – grew out of Providence Bank, founded by one of the Brown brothers (see Brown University above), a slave trader who owned slave ships. The bank made money from the slave trade. Providence, Rhode Island was the home port for many slave ships.
Harvard Law School – endowed with money from Isaac Royall, an Antiguan slave owner and sugar grower.
JP Morgan Chase – made a fortune from the slave trade. Predecessor banks (Citizens Bank, Canal Bank in Louisiana) accepted slaves as collateral, taking possession of 1,250 slaves from owners who defaulted on loans.
New York Life – insured slaves. Of its first 1,000 insurance polices, 339 were policies on slaves.
Norfolk Southern – the Mobile & Girard, now part of Norfolk Southern, rented slaves to work on the railroad. Central of Georgia, also now part of the company, owned slaves.
Princeton – raised money and recruited students from rich, slave-owning families in the South and the Caribbean. Princeton was not alone in hitting up slave owners and traders for money and students. So did:
- Dartmouth and the
- University of Delaware.
By the middle 1700s, most Princeton students were the sons of slave owners. Many of Columbia’s students were sons of slave traders.
Tiffany’s – founded with profits from a cotton mill in Connecticut that processed slave-grown cotton.
USA Today – its parent company, Gannett, had links to slavery.
Wells Fargo – Georgia Railroad & Banking Company and the Bank of Charleston owned or accepted slaves as collateral. They later became part of Wells Fargo by way of Wachovia. (In the 2000s Wells Fargo targeted blacks for predatory lending.)
Yale University – money from slave trading went to its first endowed scholarships, professorship and library.
Universities not only sought and accepted money from slave owners and traders, they helped to create scientific racism.