Wall Street & Slavery


Was our economy designed to be FAIR? Take a journey with us through pivotal moments in history and answer the question yourself.

The Hidden History of Slavery on Wall Street

For over a century, history textbooks in the United States have been taken to task for depictions of slavery that are both inaccurate and deeply problematic. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, one popular textbook suggested that enslaved people “may not have even been terribly unhappy with their lot, for they knew no other.” Others fail to acknowledge slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War. As recently as 2015, one Texas textbook included a caption that described enslaved people as “immigrants.” To call these inaccuracies egregious is to flirt with understatement, but the harms of slavery are just one part of the historical revisionist movement to ignore reality; textbooks have also been painfully adept at ignoring the centrality of slavery in establishing Wall Street and a flourishing U.S. economy. 

Rather than illuminating the extent to which our economy was dependent on land seized from Native Americans to be cultivated by an unpaid–and enslaved–workforce, U.S. textbooks too often deny these foundational realities. 

Consider these facts: 

New York City became the financial center it is today largely because 40 cents of every dollar that was generated by cotton ended up paying for the transportation, insurance, and financing of enslaved people?

European colonists forced enslaved people to build the “wall” that Wall Street was named for as a means of keeping the Lenape tribe from reclaiming their land?

What is FAIR?

The idea for Is Our Economy Fair? (FAIR) emerged during the early days of the Covid pandemic, when in-person trainings became an impossibility. A dynamic, interactive website, FAIR expands on a timeline that has been a central component of the Take on Wall Street curriculum. Not to be overlooked, these pivotal moments have formed the American economy’s DNA.

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