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Slavery is defined as one person controlling another and forcing them to work. Though most Americans believe slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, they do not realize that slavery still exists throughout the world. It is a tragic reality that still exists for over 20 million people. Men, women, and children are held against their will in such jobs as farm workers, servants, cane-cutters, concubines, bricklayers, and carpet weavers. The stories of these modern slaves will help students characterize the plight of a modern slave. While the jobs vary, the fundamentals of slavery are still the same as they were over 150 years ago. People are forced to work under a threat of violence and paid nothing, with no ability to walk away. These images visually prompt students and aid them in drawing conclusions about the hardships and prevalence of slaves. They are beaten, tortured, and sometimes even killed by their owners. Even though slavery is not legal anywhere, it is thriving everywhere. The major concentrations are in South Asia and North Africa, but thousands of slaves are trafficked into the United States as well. They are promised opportunities like education and jobs, but the slave traffickers only use this as a tactic to trick them away from their native countries. What circumstances have contributed to this? The recent population explosion has tripled the number of people in the world, with most of the development taking place in the developing world. Also, rapid social growth and economic change have displaced many to urban centers and their outskirts, where people have no 'safety net' and no job security. Government corruption around the world allows slavery to go unpunished, even though it is illegal everywhere.

Modern day slavery affects us all. In 1850 it was difficult to capture a slave and then transport him or her to the US. Today, millions of economically and socially vulnerable people around the world are potential slaves. This “supply” makes slaves today cheaper than they have ever been. The new slavery has two primary characteristics: slaves today are cheap and they are disposable.
 Human beings can be bought for an average of $90, compared to the mid 19th century when slaves were worth around $40,000. Since they are so cheap, slaves today are not considered a major investment worth maintaining. If slaves get sick, are injured, outlive their usefulness, or become troublesome to the slaveholder, they are dumped or killed. For most slave holders, legally ‘owning’ the slave is an inconvenience since they already exert total control over the individuals labor and profits. Who needs a legal document that could at some point be used against the slave holder? Today the slave holder cares more about these high profits than whether the holder and slave are of different ethnic backgrounds; in New Slavery, profit trumps skin color. Finally, new slavery is directly connected to the global economy. As in the past, most slaves are forced to work in agriculture, mining, and prostitution. From these sectors, their exploited labor flows into the global economy, and into our lives. Using the following editorial cartoons, students can assess and evaluate their connection to modern slavery. S
ince slavery feeds directly into the global economy, it makes sense that we would be concerned by the ways in which slavery flows into our homes through the products we buy and the investments we make. Slaves harvest cocoa in the Ivory Coast, make charcoal used to produce steel in Brazil, weave carpets in India—the list goes on. These products reach our stores and our homes. In addition, there may be people held in slavery in your community. Slavery happens in nearly every country in the world, and the US and Europe are not immune. Research that Free the Slaves conducted with the University of California, Berkeley found documented cases of slavery and human trafficking in more than 90 cities across the United States. Students can use images, editorial cartoons and participant accounts to resarch and discover how the global issue of modern slavery impacts them.

The questions to be answered from our project are:

1. Does slavery still exist? What does it look like?

2. Why has there been a rise in modern day slavery?

3. How does slavery affect us?


We are teacher education candidates at the University of Texas at Austin completing our Student as Historian assignment in order to meet course requirements for Secondary Advanced Social Studies Methods.


Created by: Carly Cannon and Lyssa Herbst on 11/10/09

Update on: 12/1/09