Read, Debate: Engage.

Slavery, Past and Present

November 10, 2013
tags:#Eden House, #modern slavery, #Nicholas D. Kristof
by:Jonathan Lutes
Steve McQueen's new film 12 Years a Slave tells the true story of Solomon Northop's fate, who, living as a free African American in 18th century New York, one day gets abducted and sold as a slave for twelve years.

McQueen feels that slavery’s critical role in the not-too-distant past has not been sufficiently addressed. In the 1850s slavery was still a huge industry, with even the Anglican Church owning a plantation in the Caribbean. Descendants of slaves working this plantation are still hoping for the Church to make a greater effort to rectify its past mistakes.

Today we think of those times as an embarrassment to human virtue; it is hard to imagine how people then could have been so at ease with the concept of slavery. Yet, as Nicholas D. Kristof points out, slavery still exists today. Over 29 million of the world’s people are living in what is termed modern slavery, according to the Global Slavery Index 2013. Countries such as India, Haiti, Mauritania, and Pakistan are at the top of the list. The report defines modern slavery as anything that includes slavery, debt-bondage, forced marriage, human trafficking, the sale and exploitation of children, and forced labor. As the business of selling and buying humans is no longer conducted in the street for the public to see, the figures could easily be higher. And yet, it is not difficult to find a website where one can purchase a teenage girl for sex, even in the United States.

Websites such as, which belongs to Village Voice Media, allow advertisements for sex with children and young women forced into this work by pimps who brand them like cattle and threaten them with violence if quotas are not met. A former victim of modern slavery in the US was able to escape this life and has started an organization called Eden House, which for a two-year period provides a home, education, counseling, and job training for 6 to 8 women who have been recently freed.

Article written by:
Jonathan Lutes