Jonathan Daniel Wells, PhD, is a social, cultural, and intellectual historian and a Professor of History in the Departments of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at Gonville & Caius College at the University of Cambridge. His published works include The Origins of the Southern Middle Class, Women Writers and Journalists in the Nineteenth-Century South, and A House Divided: The Civil War and Nineteenth-Century America, and Blind No More: African American Resistance, Free-Soil Politics, and the Coming of the Civil War.
This interest in the relationship between slavery and capitalism has led Wells to a new and exciting book, The New York Kidnapping Club, on self-emancipated African Americans (and the slavecatchers who pursued them) who straddled the thin line between slavery and freedom in the antebellum North. It explores the complicated ways in which ideas about enslavement and freedom competed for public support in northern communities like New York, debates that profoundly shaped politics and culture in the North and the coming of the Civil War.