Litercurious Book Review

TitleWilliams’ Gang: A Notorious Slave Trader and
His Cargo of Black Convicts
AuthorJeff Forret
PublisherCambridge University Press (January 16, 2020)
FormatKindle, Hardcover
ISBN # 1108493033


Discover the Prof. Jeff Forret, the author of Williams’ Gang on his page here.


Forret’s manuscript is an invaluable tool for those wishing to understand and appreciate the mechanisms of the slave trade.


Jeff Forret’s work is an extensive and comprehensive examination of the slave trade from the perspective of William H. Williams. 

Williams hailed from Washington DC (District of Columbia), Virginia where he engaged in the flesh trade in a private home known as the Yellow House. The property, surrounded by a twelve-foot wall patrolled by men and ferocious dogs, was more of a human warehouse/sales lot for his chattels than a home. The slaves (men, women, and children) were kept in the basement of the two-story house and then sold at auction in the yard. If selling abducted human beings wasn’t bad enough, he engaged in the kidnapping free “men” or former freed slaves and selling them into servitude. 

The now famous Solomon Northup, a free man of New York, was just one of the people the Williams Gang thrust into bondage. You may recognize his name as he was the writer of in Twelve Years a Slave where he recounted his life experiences as a free man and a slave. 

Forret goes onto chronicle the range of legal wrangles and the events surrounding Williams’  purchase of 27 convicts in 1840 for transport and sale outside of the United States. After illegally transporting the convicts to New Orleans, Louisiana he became entangled in legal proceedings lasting decades; well past the abolishment of slavery by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  

Based on a plethora of reference material, Forret describes the attitudes, economies, and politics of the time surrounding the slave trade.  


An excellent primer for anyone wishing to gain a greater knowledge of the workings of the United States Slave Trade during the 1800’s. The attitudes, politics, and economics of the era are eyeopening and intriguing. Williams’ Gang: A Notorious Slave Trader and His Cargo of Black Convicts is an excellent look into the history of human bondage in the United States.

As I read the book, I found similarities to the style of writing in a work called Stolen, written by Richard Bell. You can find my review for Stolen here on Litercurious.

Further reading about Williams’ Gang can be found here.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


I would like to thank Jeff Forret, NetGalley, and Cambridge University Press for affording me the opportunity to review Williams’ Gang: A Notorious Slave Trader and His Cargo of Black Convicts.