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The institution of slavery turned a poor, fledgling nation into a financial powerhouse, and the cotton plantation was America’s first big business. Behind the system, and built into it, was the whip. On today’s episode: Matthew Desmond, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and the author of “Evicted,” and Jesmyn Ward, the author of “Sing, Unburied, Sing.”

“1619” is a New York Times audio series hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones. You can find more information about it at nytimes.com/1619podcast.

This episode includes scenes of graphic violence.

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