Tubman Talks: “The Treasury of Weary Souls” – 9 November 2017

Dr. Michael Ralph will present a paper entitled, “The Treasury of Weary Souls” on November 9, 2017 at the Harriet Tubman Institute from 2:30 – 4:30.


The Treasury of Weary Souls contains more than 1300 policy records of enslaved workers in America’s most lucrative and dangerous antebellum industries. After the slave trade to the US was outlawed in 1808, Africans were smuggled into the country (a tricky process), they were bred (which depended on the human life cycle), and they were rented (so the people who treated them as property could make as much money as possible). People who rented slaves insured them, so that these valuable assets would not be destroyed while in someone else’s possession. Legally slaves were property. But, no other form of property could enhance its value through the skills it acquired. The Treasury of Weary Souls is the first resource to consolidate policy information on the practice of insuring human beings from enslaved persons treated as cargo on Transatlantic vessels, to enslaved workers in America’s most dangerous and most lucrative industries. The Treasury of Weary Souls contains data on financial firms who acquired slave insurance policies during the 20th century and continue to profit from them today.


Michael Ralph holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, where he serves as the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Michael is the author of the University of Chicago Press book, Forensics of Capital. He is Editor-in-Chief of Transforming Anthropology, the flagship journal of the Association of Black Anthropologists. Michael wrote and directed the forthcoming animated, short, musical, “Fishing,” which explores the ingenuity of people who are incarcerated. Michael is responsible for the Treasury of Weary Souls, the world’s most comprehensive ledger of insured slaves.

Posted in Events, Tubman Talks.