Slavery, history and racial issues are again in the news and there has been lots of evidence of a poor understanding of history. The way to cure bad history is good history, because frankly many of us either had no real education about slavery, reconstruction or the Jim Crow era, or what we had was bad history.
There are two primary focuses of The Half Has Never Been Told, first Baptist is trying to give a good account of what slavery was really like and how it changed over time. Baptist has prioritized slave narratives or interviews with actual slaves as the basis for his descriptions of what slavery was really like.
The second focus of The Half Has Never Been Told is to look at how slavery was tied to the development of the early US economy. What is important about the book is that the early economy was not separated North and South or in some other regional method, but was interdependent. Repeatedly, Northern politicians, some of which opposed slavery on moral or ethical grounds, and Southern politicians, many of whom owned slaves directly, voted to expand slavery or at least voted against restrictions because of economic interests. When economics and moral concerns collided, usually the economic concerns won.
In summary, Baptist shows that slaves were the most liquid form of capital in the early economy and the liquidity of slaves as capital grew over time as the internal slave markets matured and older slave economies of the Southeast sold slaves as a commodity to the Southwest for the development of the cotton economy. The development of early banks and commodity markets were highly dependent on slavery either as a direct market, reason for lending, the collateral for loans, or dependent on the crops that were produced by slaves.