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Gene Dattel


Gene Dattel

Cotton and Race in the Making of America is Dattel's bold, unflinching, evenhanded interpretation of the connection between cotton, race, and the American experience. Dattel explores the force of cotton's economically productive, but socially devastating, march across America between 1787 and 1930.


This is an American, not a Southern, story; it is a vastly unappreciated tale that is central to America's rise to economic power. Cotton may no longer be king, but its legacy endures. In order to understand American history it is necessary to understand the role of cotton.


Gene Dattel is a financial historian, author, lecturer, government and private sector advisor on American and Asian financial institutions, media commentator, and former international capital markets investment banker at Salomon Brothers and Morgan Stanley. He is also a theatrical contributing writer and performer.


Dattel received his B.A. in History from Yale and his J.D. from Vanderbilt Law School. He is on the Board of Advisors of the BB King Museum in Indianola, MS and has served as an advisory scholar to The New York Historical Society on its Slavery II — Cotton and Commerce exhibition (2005).


More about
Cotton and Race in the Making of America




Clarion-Ledger, Historian Hopes 'Help' Fuels Race Discussion, September 28, 2011


The New York Times, Disunion Series: When Cotton Was King, March 26, 2011


C-SPAN: Cotton and Race in the Making of America, November 11, 2009 (video)


Bloomberg: Hanged From Tree, Set Afire as New York Mob Murdered Blacks: Lewis Lapham, December 11, 2010

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Cotton and Race is now available at Amazon and independent bookstores

Cotton and Race

Praise for
Cotton and Race

"Gene Dattel's book is a gem — one of the finest works on the American national experience to appear in many years."

– Richard Sylla


"Gene Dattel's book masterfully captures America's history and its painful legacy,"

–Morgan Freeman



"Gene Dattel has produced a superb study of King Cotton's reign over the United States of America. Though exceptionally well-versed in the economic history of cotton production, he never loses sight of the human suffering caused by slavery and its consequences."

–Niall Ferguson


"This powerful, disturbing book show[s] how whites'quest for economic power, and cotton's shockingly important role, easily subverted the Constitution's lofty rhetoric about human beings' inalienable rights."

– Lee Daniels, NAACP-Legal Defense Fund


"Cotton and Race in the Making of America" is as important as it is provocative — Dattel provides a real service in reminding a new generation just how profound cotton's role, in fact, was. In refreshing — and sharpening — our memories about the role of cotton and the enormity of slavery in American history, Dattel makes a valuable contribution indeed."

– Peter A. Coclanis


More praise for
Cotton and Race in the Making of America

News Updates

The New York Times
Photo by James Patterson for The New York Times. The Greenville Community Harmony Chorus was formed to promote racial unity in the city. From left, Dr. Loretta M. Shannon, Leanna Salley, Blanche Yee, Ruth Lockhart and Jean Pittman.

Beyond Black and White
in the Mississippi Delta

Beneath the easy assumptions about racial animosity in the South, a different ethos prevails — Gene Dattel explores surprising election results in three Delta towns.



Gene Dattel talk and book signing

Adventures in Literature at the Roeliff Jansen Community Library
February 24, 2013

See current schedule of appearances


From the Clinton School Speaker Series

Cotton and Race and the Making of America: The Human Costs of Economic Power

Clinton School Video

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