Zoe Trodd, Timothy McCarthy, and Kevin Bales, discuss “10 Questions,” a book about the modern abolitionist movement, in Fong Auditorium last night.
Many Americans may associate the complete end of slavery with the American Civil War over a century ago. But in some parts of the world, this is not true—not even in the United States.
The two authors of the recently published book “To Plead Our Own Cause: Personal Stories by Today’s Slaves” spoke in a public forum moderated by Timothy P. McCarthy ’93 in Boylston Hall’s Fong Auditorium last night.
Kevin Bales, a leading expert on modern-day slavery, and Zoe Trodd, a special program instructor at Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education, emphasized the need for individuals to be aware of slavery that exists today and the importance of spurring people to action.
Their book, published last June, consists of 95 narratives of people who were recently liberated from slavery. The book also focuses on human trafficking, which is the most prevalent form of American slavery today. According to data from the Central Intelligence Agency, around 50,000 people are trafficked into or transited through the United States annually as sex, domestic, garment, and agricultural slaves.
McCarthy, lecturer of Literature and Arts A-86: “American Protest Literature from Tom Paine to Tupac” and a Quincy House senior tutor, described the book as informative, descriptive, and broad. “One of the things that the editors have done here is that they put a variety of types of slavery,” he said. “The book covers from the stories of illegal child labor industry in Asia to those of victims of Eastern European sex slavery.” The work, he added, is a representation of a wide range of the enslaved peoples.
“There are 27 million slaves in the world today. This is by far the biggest number of enslaved population in the entire human history,” said Bales, who is the president and founder of Free the Slaves, the U.S. sister organization of Anti-Slavery International.
But, Bales also said, the percentage of the world’s population in slavery is lower than it has ever been, suggesting that battling slavery can be effective.
He emphasized that although enslavement is still prevailing in every continent except Antarctica, it is solvable.
Within Harvard, there have been recent efforts to respond to the problem of global slavery. This fall, Kelli K. Okuji ’10 and Anna M. Kamerow ’11 co-founded Harvard for Free the Slaves, a pilot chapter of Bales’ organization.
“Modern-day slavery is happening even in America now,” said Kamerow, describing a case of a man from Texas who took kids from Africa and forced them into a boys’ choir to make a profit. “It is one of the most exciting and perhaps the most combatable human right issues we are facing today.”