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Comics That Read Top to Bottom Are Bringing in New Readers



For decades, the fans who powered the comic book industry made weekly pilgrimages to their local comic shops to buy the latest issues about their favorite caped-and-cowled adventurers. These Wednesday Warriors, named for the day new installments typically land on shelves, still do. Voracious readers of printed comics, they skew older — and are mostly male.

But now all it takes is a smartphone, as the world of comics is reshaped by the kind of digital disruption that has transformed journalism, music, movies and television. Web comics have exploded in popularity in recent years, in part by tapping into an audience the industry had long overlooked: Gen Z and Millennial women. The stories they offer — of a young woman battling sexism in the world of e-sports or a romance-focused retelling of Greek myth — are mostly free and scroll vertically on smartphones, where readers under 25 live.

And they have minted stars from a new generation of creators.

“Even 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be doing this,” said Kaitlyn Narvaza, 28, of San Diego, who is known as instantmiso on Webtoon where her series “Siren’s Lament” has drawn more than 430 million views. “We have these opportunities to share these romance stories as American creators — as American women authors and comic artists. We didn’t have those opportunities before.”

Webtoon, which originated in Korea in 2004 and is the world’s largest digital comics platform, said more than half of its 82 million monthly users are women.

The platform has attracted readers with hits that are a departure from traditional tales of good versus evil. In “Lookism,” a young, friendless man wakes up in a tall, handsome body; “The Remarried Empress” features a protagonist who is, well, remarried; “unOrdinary” centers on a teenager with a secret past that threatens to bring down his high school’s social hierarchy. (“Frenemies,” the description warns, are “around every corner.”)

“Let’s Play” is about a young woman who wants to design video games. “It is a gaming comic with romance or a romance comic with gaming,” said its creator, Leeanne Krecic, who quit her job in I.T. a few years ago to focus on comics. She thinks readers relate to the main character’s struggles with career and dating.

“The majority of American comics have been the hero story, which is great, nothing wrong with that,” she said. But “in Korea and Japan, they’ve been telling the romance story, the high school story.”

Traditional publishers have noticed the success of these digital platforms. Marvel and DC and Archie Comics have struck deals with Webtoon to produce original digital stories featuring some of their biggest characters.

Webtoon alone grossed $900 million in on-platform sales in 2021, up from $656 million in 2020, the company said. Because reading the comics is free, most of the revenue comes from advertising and selling fanatic readers early access to their favorite series.

But print comics are far from dead. In fact, their sales exploded during the pandemic, with so many people bored and stuck at home. Experts estimate that total North American comics and graphic novel sales were approximately $2.08 billion in 2021, a figure that includes the combined revenue of multiple legacy publishers, as well as their digital sales, which together totaled only $170 million.

While the new adventures have been embraced by many, some fans have complained about “wokeism” in the comics world. That hasn’t stopped traditional publishers from trying to capture a bigger piece of the new readership with more modern story lines, even with some of their most famous characters.

Last year DC Comics had its new Superman, Jonathan Kent — the son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane — begin a romantic relationship with a male friend, and Batman’s sidekick, Robin, recently acknowledged his own bisexuality.

The older brands are also experimenting with online offerings. Marvel has developed its own “digital first” stories, including its Infinity Comics, which uses a vertical scroll. A recent comic about the gay mutant Iceman focused on his romantic life as much as his heroic one. Executives at Marvel said they plan to expand Infinity Comics with a focus on creators and characters from diverse backgrounds, which the company hopes will help reach new readers.

DC Comics has also produced “digital first” comics and, within the last year, collaborated with Webtoon on the series “Batman: Wayne Family Adventures.” The series has served up stories quieter than crime-fighting: about dating, family dynamics, fitting in at school and the post-traumatic stress of a hero.

Ken Kim, Webtoon’s chief executive for North America, said that successful digital creators understand that young readers — the platform’s target demographic — tend to want stories reflecting their lifestyles and dreams.

Tapas Media, another major web comics platform, says that more than 80 percent of its readers are between 17 and 25 and roughly two-thirds are women.

Some of its most popular series revolve around topics the current generation of young readers can directly relate to. Michael Son, Tapas’s vice president of content, pointed to “Magical Boy,” a series featuring a transgender teenager discovered to be a descendant of a goddess. “Sailor Moon meets Buffy,” he said.

“We wanted to get rid of gatekeepers,” he said. “The readers really directed what content directions we were taking. What organically popped up was a very young, very female-centric readership that was also reflected in the creator base.”

Digital comics companies have expanded their presence at Comic-Con International at San Diego, one of the industry’s oldest and most important conventions, which runs through Sunday. Webtoon, which has had a significant presence since 2018, saw Ms. Smythe’s “Lore Olympus” receive this year’s Best Webcomic Eisner Award, and Tapas appeared this year for the first time.

Vincent Kao, 30, who is known as “The Kao” on Tapas, is the creator of “Magical Boy.” He read Japanese comics and graphic novels growing up, drew his own comic in college, and got a degree in illustration, but had always assumed drawing comics would remain a hobby.

Then he posted a slice-of-life comic on Tapas, where it gained traction. He pitched “Magical Boy” after seeing a call for submissions.

“When I’m looking at American comics, I’m always like, ‘There’s not enough gay stuff — where’s my representation?’” he said. But, he added, artists are often warned it’s hard to make money in comics, and that publishing L.G.B.T.Q. content is likely to be even tougher.

When he pitched “Magical Boy,” about a trans man, “it blew me away that it was something a company would be backing and funding,” he said.

Before Elliot Basil, 22, a trans man in Ohio, discovered “Magical Boy” he felt he could only relate to characters in comics “in a roundabout way,” he said.

But in Max, the main character of “Magical Boy,” Mr. Basil finally found a character that struck close to home. He said that seeing Max “try to make a stand for himself, and find people who will stand up for him, really is something that I wish I had when I was that young.”

Digital platforms offer creators new paths to publish, sometimes with ownership of most — if not all — their intellectual property. (The battles between comics creators and traditional publishers date back to Superman’s arrival from Krypton: Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster sold their rights to the Man of Steel for $130 in 1938, and then fought for decades for restitution.)

The money today’s creators make is often modest — Webtoon said it paid more than $13.5 million to its roughly 1,500 English-language creators in 2021, meaning most are in no position to quit their day jobs. But the most successful can do well: Webtoon said its top Korean creators can make in the range of $250,000 a year.

Still, industry veterans warn young up-and-comers to proceed with caution. Contracts should be carefully vetted before signing. And the weekly publishing schedule can be punishing for creators.

Webtoon came under fire in June for an ad campaign that boasted: “Comics are literature’s side-hustle.” Creators were furious. The company apologized.

And some creators have not found digital platforms as good a fit. The veteran cartoonist Dean Haspiel, 55, published his comic “The Red Hook,” about a Brooklyn superhero, on Webtoon in 2016. The series continued for more than four seasons but “didn’t get the kind of response that we wanted,” he said.

“Ultimately I started to understand that the Webtoon reading audience is a very different audience than the kind of comics I would produce,” he said.

But many new creators are delighted to have a way to reach that audience.

“I’ve always been like, ‘The money is there, the readership is there, we are just tapping into it,’” Ms. Krecic, the “Let’s Play” creator, said. “We found a gold mine.”


The Quest for Identity and Independence



Irene Muchemi-Ndiritu’s debut novel, LUCKY GIRL (324 pp., Dial Press, paperback, $18), is a coming-of-age story about a privileged but sheltered teenager in Kenya, Soila, who is eager for escape. She wants to leave behind the slums and poverty of Nairobi for the United States, a country she naïvely believes to be without human suffering, but mostly she wants to get away from her mother. Her only living parent, her “yeyo” is a successful businesswoman who is deeply religious and unyielding, sometimes to the point of cruelty.

The story is largely set in the New York of the 1990s, as Soila narrates her cautious exploration of freedom at Barnard and beyond. Still, even from thousands of miles away, her mother wields influence, steering Soila into a career she doesn’t want (investment banking instead of photography), quizzing her about her virginity (secretly gone) and deeming Soila’s boyfriends inappropriate, including an artsy dreadlocked dreamboat who is almost implausibly perfect.

Soila has our sympathies but she’s an erratic narrator, chronicling her duller activities with dutiful thoroughness, as if she’s journaling, while withholding information the reader craves. When she takes up with her first boyfriend, a medical student named Alex who is also Kenyan but biracial, there’s no mention of where they sit, sexually, until they’ve known each other almost a year. Given Soila’s history — she was molested and has shared her anxiety around sex — the reader may feel left out or puzzled by the omission. Muchemi-Ndiritu’s prose can be stiff, enhancing this sense of distance.

“Lucky Girl” is at its strongest when Muchemi-Ndiritu addresses the topic of American racism. Soila is for a long time willing to overlook it even when she experiences it firsthand; her perspective is that anything is better than the poverty in Kenya. She and her friends and lovers have passionate arguments about race that unfold in the kind of long conversational exchanges one might see in a Rachel Cusk novel. Alex urges her to code-switch, conform a little, as he has. Soila finds her identity “difficult to shed. It wasn’t a pair of boots I could just leave at the door and pick out another pair.” Her honesty about her “different brand of Blackness,” and ultimately her ability to drop the idea of it being a brand, make for some of the book’s most compelling passages.

Born in the Pacific Northwest in the spring of 2002, Elspeth “Betty” Noura Rummani is blue from head to toe. This spectacular development in the opening pages of Sarah Cypher’s THE SKIN AND ITS GIRL (352 pp., Ballantine, $28) ultimately keeps Betty in her family of origin. Her mentally unwell mother, Tashi, had planned to give her baby up for adoption, but the prospective adoptive parents flee when they see Betty’s skin. Betty grows up instead with her mother, her white father and a charmingly eccentric, “narratively endowed” extended family of Palestinian Americans.

Betty’s skin sounds beautiful and is — coincidentally or not — the same hue as the soap made by generations of Rummanis at their factory in the West Bank city of Nablus, the remains of which are blown up by Israeli F-16s just as Betty is about to be born. OK, that can’t be a coincidence, right?

But deciphering Betty’s blueness doesn’t seem to be Cypher’s point, nor does it play that much of a role in the plot, which includes other familiar elements of magical realism. There are elaborate folkloric storytelling sequences and some gorgeous, evocative imagery. (Betty’s skin is “the pure electric blue of a television-lit family.”) Not every description lands as successfully; at one point, one woman’s sigh is said to converse with another woman’s anger, “turning it over like a bolt of bright orange cashmere,” and this reader felt plunged into the world of sweaters, not emotions.

Maybe Cypher intends Betty’s skin to stand in for the otherness of immigrants like Saeeda, her grandmother, and more specifically, her great-aunt Nuha. Nuha, who came to America from Nablus as a young adult, barely blinks at the blue skin and serves as nanny and fierce protector in Betty’s infancy. For years, the family keeps Betty swaddled and hidden away, avoiding public transportation, as if she’s E.T. and the government might take her away.

Nuha is a marvelous character, like a chain-smoking Mary Poppins. Much of this ambitious novel is told from the perspective of the young adult Betty, gay and contemplating leaving America to be with her lover, walking through her closeted aunt’s life story, narrating it to the now-dead Nuha in the second person. But the fussy, multilayered nature of all the “you” in the storytelling gets in the way; no one could be better equipped to tell their own story than Nuha Rummani.

Lily Miller, the central character in Wiz Wharton’s GHOST GIRL, BANANA (400 pp., Harper, $30), lost her mother, Sook-Yin, when she was so young that she has only two memories of her: that Sook-Yin smelled like watermelon and that their family, which includes an older sister, Maya, was happy. As this story of family secrets opens, Lily is 25 and a depressed, prickly Cambridge dropout who has not yet entirely recovered from a suicide attempt. Her dead mother squats in her brain “like a dripping tap or an unpaid bill.”

The unpaid bill reference is apt; one of Wharton’s key narrative themes is money and the damage it can do, from either the lack of it or the longing for it, and the corruptions and compromises that come with having it.

The barely employed Lily receives a letter from a lawyer in Hong Kong, informing her that she’s been left a half million pounds in the will of a powerful banker. She doesn’t know who he is, there’s no explanation of why, and there is a provision to the money: Lily needs to come to Hong Kong and sign for it before the end of his family’s 49-day mourning period. It’s 1997, just as the historic transfer of power from Britain to China is to take place.

The novel bounces between three different timelines, and Wharton skillfully navigates between each. We meet the intrepid Sook-Yin in 1966 as she’s shipped off to England for nursing school and then gets stuck with a near stranger, Julian Miller, a pub-loving ne’er-do-well who impregnates her. In the third timeline, Sook-Yin, now a mother of two who has made repeated sacrifices to hold her family together, advances unwittingly toward death in 1977. We know it’s coming but not how, and Wharton makes this a real nail-biter; we’re invested heavily in Sook-Yin and wish for a happy ending for her.

Adult Lily interrogates this family history in Hong Kong and confronts her own biracial identity. She looks like her mother (Maya, who is blond and green-eyed, passes for white) but is not Chinese enough for her uncle, who dubs her “Ghost Girl.” (Sook-Yin was called a “banana” for choosing to marry a white Englishman, hence the book’s title built of twin pejoratives.) To be marginalized, to never quite fit in, even with all her striving, is Sook-Yin’s fate. But Lily’s journey of self-discovery, so winningly chronicled by Wharton, promises a better fate for Sook-Yin’s younger daughter.

Mary Pols is a Maine-based writer and editor. She is the author of a memoir, “Accidentally on Purpose.”

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Even After Debunking, ‘Sybil’ Hasn’t Gone Away



Turning 50 is rarely easy for a woman, and “Sybil” is no exception.

This tarnished classic — “the True and Extraordinary Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Separate Personalities,” to invoke the most carnival-barker of its various subtitles — has since its 1973 publication been critically dismissed; wedged on the best-seller list between Lillian Hellman and Howard Cosell as if at some nightmare dinner party; made into two different television movies; workshopped as a musical; cited in psychiatric literature; debunked, dissected and defended.

Widely reported to have sold over six million copies, she’s valiantly stayed in circulation all these years, but can’t be blamed for looking a little frayed around the edges.

“Sybil” is part of a long American parade of books about psychologically distressed women, preceded in the 1960s by “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” and “The Bell Jar,” followed in the 1990s — the cloak coming off — by the confessionals “Girl, Interrupted” and “Prozac Nation.” It haunted teenage girls (and surely some boys) from their bedroom shelves, with its distinctive covers of a face divided as if the shards of a broken mirror, or fractured into jigsaw-puzzle pieces.

I, too, was intrigued by that mirror cover, but thoroughly perplexed by the text. Returning to it as an adult, I can only see “Sybil” weighed down with all the scholarship and skepticism that came to surround her, like clanking, oversize accessories. The book is a historical curiosity and a cautionary tale of mass cultural delusion that makes one wonder what current voguish diagnoses — witness the “TikTok tics” — might warrant closer interrogation.

Seemingly overnight, “Sybil” pathologized the idea that one might “contain multitudes,” as Walt Whitman wrote in his exuberant “Song of Myself.” Its heroine had suffered extreme childhood trauma and developed a set of different personalities to cope. With the help of an attentive doctor, she would integrate them into one identity and be made whole and mature.

It was a remarkable story — and at this moment of Women’s Lib and changing gender roles, an oddly relatable one: somehow of a piece with “The Exorcist,” released the same year, and that bonkers Enjoli perfume commercial with a spokesmodel bringing home the bacon, frying it up in a pan and never letting you forget you were a man.

Originally titled “Who is Sylvia?” (the publisher deemed that name too Jewish), “Sybil” was written by Flora Rheta Schreiber in close collaboration with its subject, an artist and teacher who in real life was Shirley Ardell Mason from Dodge Center, Minn., and Mason’s longtime psychoanalyst, Cornelia Wilbur. What did the three women have in common? Magazines: the same bibles of domestic servitude that Betty Friedan so effectively scrutinized in “The Feminine Mystique.”

Forbidden to create fiction by her parents, who were strict Seventh-day Adventists, Mason as a child instead cut out and rearranged letters and words from copies of Ladies’ Home Journal and Good Housekeeping, “like a kidnapper preparing a ransom note,” wrote Debbie Nathan in “Sybil Exposed,” her forensic 2011 investigation of the trio, which draws extensively from Schreiber’s papers at John Jay College.

Schreiber, who aspired to a literary career and at one time was romantically involved with the playwright Eugene O’Neill’s oldest son, wrote celebrity profiles and pop psychology pieces for outlets such as Cosmopolitan. And Wilbur, who had treated the actor Roddy McDowall — Case 129 in a book she co-authored about the causes and “treatment” of male homosexuality — craved the kind of broad audience that magazines then attracted.

Written to women’s magazines’ then-loose reporting standards, with pseudonyms granted and facts changed or completely fabricated, “Sybil” is best read less as a case study in the mode of “Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria” (the even more famous and interrogated Dora) than as horror story. And indeed Schreiber, admiring the success of Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” from the beginning aspired to do a “nonfiction novel.”

Its shocking details of abuse at the hands of a likely schizophrenic mother — cold-water enemas administered while the young “Sybil Dorsett” is hanging upside down from a light bulb cord over the kitchen table are one “matinal maternal ministration,” to use Schreiber’s affected terminology — exceed those in Stephen King’s novel “Carrie.” Sybil supposedly had a bead shoved up her nose; a buttonhook inserted in her genitals; and was blindfolded and shut in a trunk.

Rather than telekinetic powers, she develops a preternatural ability to assume different personas. Struggling in work and love, she finds herself dissociating from reality, “losing time.” At one session she begins speaking with a countrified accent and identifies herself as “Peggy.” The number and variety of these different characters — which include two male carpenters, “Mike” and “Sid” — increase exponentially into an “entourage of alternating selves.”

The real case studies here are of medical and journalistic malpractice. Wilbur by any modern metric crossed the line from transference to enmeshment. She crept into her patient’s bed to administer electroshock treatment with an outdated device, doled out Pentothal (a barbiturate then wrongly thought to act as a truth serum) to the point of addiction, and took her on creepy road trips.

Presented with a rueful letter from Mason that she’d been “essentially lying” about not only the different selves but her mother’s tortures, Wilbur refused to reconsider her diagnosis, Nathan reported. Her patient was in a state of “resistance” to the terrible truth, the psychiatrist maintained.

When Schreiber tried to play Capote, visiting Dodge Center and examining Mason’s medical records, she found discrepancies galore. But all three women were too emotionally and economically invested in the project to abandon it, even forming a company called Sybil Inc.

The notion of multiple personalities has remained big business. During its brief tenure in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from 1980 to 1994, cases mushroomed among the female populace, along with a fever of recovered memories stoked by another since discredited book, “Michelle Remembers.” Perhaps never before or since has the medical profession been so entwined with story. What could be more dramatic, more compelling, than a protagonist and numerous supporting players in one body? (The manual now describes the condition less suggestively, as dissociative identity disorder.)

Hollywood had already harvested “The Three Faces of Eve,” a best seller about the case of Christine Costner Sizemore; the film won Joanne Woodward an Oscar in 1958. (Woodward would play Wilbur in the first TV movie of “Sybil.”) The multiple-personality phenomenon became a mainstay of talk shows, from Schreiber and Wilbur appearing on Dick Cavett’s to Oprah Winfrey declaring it “the syndrome of the ’90s.” One of her guests, Truddi Chase, identified 92 separate personalities, which Chase called The Troops.

Memoirs of the condition, including Chase’s best-selling “When Rabbit Howls,” abounded. Friends of the real-life “Sybil” arrived with sequels, showcasing her paintings. Further cinematic depictions ranged from the sublime (Edward Norton in “Primal Fear”) to the ridiculous (Jim Carrey in “Me, Myself & Irene”).

Few remember Michelle, but Sybil, with all her cautionary addenda, endures. Further footnoting the whole saga, her psychiatrist also figured in the case of Billy Milligan, the acquitted “Campus Rapist” said to have 24 personalities, whose story was told by the author Daniel Keyes.

“The Crowded Room,” a 10-episode mini-series inspired by Milligan, will begin streaming on Apple TV+ next month. The sands of mental health may always be shifting, but when mined for material, they’re bottomless.

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Stanley Engerman, Revisionist Scholar of Slavery, Dies at 87



Stanley Engerman, one of the authors of a deeply researched book that, wading into the fraught history of American slavery, argued that it was a rational, viable economic system and that enslaved Black people were more efficient workers than free white people in the North, died on May 11 in Watertown, Mass. He was 87.

His son David said the cause was myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare form of blood and bone marrow cancer.

In their two-volume “Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery” (1974), Professor Engerman and Professor Robert W. Fogel used data analysis to challenge what they called common characterizations of slavery, including that it was unprofitable, inefficient and pervasively abusive.

They said they were not defending slavery. “If any aspect of the American past evokes a sense of shame,” they wrote, it’s the system of slavery.” But much of the accepted wisdom about it, they said, was distorted, or just plain wrong.

“Slave agriculture was not inefficient compared with free agriculture,” they wrote. “Economies of large-scale operation, effective management and intensive utilization of labor made Southern slave agriculture 35 percent more efficient than the Northern system of family farming.”

They insisted that the typical slave “was not lazy, inept and unproductive” but rather “was harder working and more efficient than his white counterpart.” They contended that the destruction of the Black family through slave breeding and sexual exploitation was a myth, and that it was in the economic interest of plantation owners to encourage the stability of enslaved families.

They also wrote that some slaves received positive incentives, such as being elevated to overseers of work gangs, to increase their productivity.

The book attracted a lot of attention, including a rave review by the economist Peter Passell in The New York Times. “If a more important book about American history has been published in the last decade, I don’t know about it,” he wrote, describing the work as a corrective, “a jarring attack on the methods and conclusions of traditional scholarship” on slavery.

Not every review was as kind. Thomas L. Haskell, writing in The New York Review of Books in 1975 about three books that challenged its findings, called it “severely flawed.” Some historians criticized its relatively benign portrayal of slave life.

“We thought there’d be a lot of discussion within the history profession for a while, but the public reaction is something else,” Professor Engerman told The Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester in May 1974.

When he and Professor Fogel, who would share the Nobel in economic sciences with Douglass C. North in 1993, appeared on the “Today” show, Kenneth Clark, the prominent Black sociologist, accused them of portraying slavery “as a benign form of oppression.”

And in an article in The New York Times Magazine, the novelist Toni Morrison seized on their finding that slaves were not lazy. “No Black person who ever looked at the economic growth of the 19th-century American South,” she wrote, “ever doubted that slaves were efficient. What is interesting is that such a conclusion is now necessary to convince white people.”

Several months after “Time on the Cross” was published, about 100 historians, economists and sociologists gathered for a three-day conference to discuss the book at the University of Rochester, where Professor Engerman and Professor Fogel taught.

The debate was so contentious that The Democrat and Chronicle described it as “scholarly warfare.” Some of the criticism focused on the two men’s emphasis on statistics over the brutal realities of slavery.

“They deny the slave his voice, his initiative and his humanity,” the historian Kenneth M. Stampp said at the conference. “They reject the untidy world in which masters and slaves, with their rational and irrational perceptions, survived as best they could, and replace it with a model of a tidy, rational world that never was.”

But the Marxist historian Eugene D. Genovese, whose own book about slavery, “Roll, Jordan Roll: The World the Slave Made,” was also published in 1974, called “Time on the Cross” an “important work” that had “broken open a lot of questions about issues that were swept under the rug before.”

“Time on the Cross” was one of the winners of the prestigious Bancroft Prize for history from Columbia University in 1975, but not without controversy: Some of the school’s trustees disagreed with the choice because, a university spokesman said, the authors’ conclusions were “based on new methods of data analysis.”

In a 1989 edition of their book, the authors acknowledged that they had been remiss in not being clearer about the evils of enslavement; they should have, they wrote, provided a “new moral indictment of slavery.”

“Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery” used data analysis to challenge commonly held ideas about slavery.Credit…Little, Brown

Stanley Lewis Engerman was born on March 14, 1936, in Brooklyn. His father, Irving, was a wholesale furniture salesman, and his mother, Edith (Kaplan) Engerman, was a homemaker.

He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from New York University in 1956 and 1958 before earning a Ph.D. in political economy from Johns Hopkins University in 1962. After teaching economics for a year at Yale, he joined the University of Rochester in 1963. He was a professor of economics there, and later also of history, until he retired in 2017.

In 1980, he received a Guggenheim fellowship to study free and unfree labor in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In addition to his son David, Professor Engerman is survived by two other sons, Mark and Jeff; a sister, Natalie Mayrsohn; and six grandchildren. His wife Judith (Rader) Engerman, died in 2019.

Professor Engerman’s interest in the economics of slavery was stoked by an article he read in a 1958 issue of The Journal of Political Economy when he was in graduate school. The article, by Alfred Conrad and John Meyer, concluded, among other things, that the slave economy was profitable, and it cast doubt on the notion that the South had been forced into an unnecessary war to protect an unsound economic system.

After completing “Time on the Cross,” Professor Engerman continued to write about slavery, in the United States and around the world, as well as colonialism and economic growth in the New World. His book “Slavery, Emancipation & Freedom” (2007) examined the rise of slavery, its global history and emancipation in the United States and in other countries.

John Joseph Wallis, who teaches American economic history at the University of Maryland, said that “Time on the Cross” was essential to a full understanding of slavery.

“It’s a different perspective on how we think of slavery,” he said in a phone interview. “Not that it was good, but if you want to think about the Black experience under slavery, you have to think about it in a different way.”

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