The Fight Against Modern Slavery: Fulfilling the Promise of the Emancipation Proclamation

Posted by Luis CdeBaca
January 4, 2013
Emancipation Proclamation

On New Year's Day, our nation celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. President Obama commemorated the anniversary with two Presidential Proclamations: one that celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation and reaffirms the timeless principles it upheld, and a second that declares January 2013 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and calls on all Americans to recognize the vital role we can play in ending all forms of slavery.

President Obama referred to the Emancipation Proclamation as having "brought a new day -- that 'all persons held as slaves' would thenceforth be forever free. We wrote that promise into our Constitution. We spent decades struggling to make it real." Yet more than a century and a half later, a great deal of work still remains to fulfill the promise of freedom and restore hope to the millions who are still enslaved today.

Globally, as many as 27 million are victimized in modern slavery. This exploitation occurs every day in our cities and towns. It taints the global supply chains of the products we rely on every day. In countries across the world, it tears apart families, undermines communities, creates instability, and threatens the rule of law.

And, as the recently released documentary Journey to Freedom demonstrates, the nightmares faced by today's modern slaves are hauntingly similar to those of the slaves of the 1800s. These stories remind us that slavery -- then as now -- is about the exploitation of men, women, and children who are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. In the past, slavery's victims were born into bondage. Today, traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of those seeking a better life.

Yesterday, at President Lincoln's Cottage, the very place where he developed the Emancipation Proclamation, I joined a panel with three distinguished academics to discuss how our history must inform our struggle to fight modern slavery. President Lincoln's Cottage and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights co-sponsored the event as well as an anthology of essays by noted historians and experts regarding the Proclamation's meaning over time and its significance today. My contribution to the anthology highlights the lessons of emancipation in the fight against modern slavery, and reminds us of the costs if we fail to act.

As President Obama has called us to do, we "rededicate ourselves to stopping one of the greatest human rights abuses of our time." Every citizen can do his or her part. It starts with educating yourself and learning the red flags that may indicate human trafficking. It means being prepared to report tips on potential human trafficking activity to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888. It also means becoming a conscientious consumer by visiting Slavery Footprint to determine "How many slaves work for you?" and what you can do to reduce your slavery footprint. For more ideas, visit 20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

As we move forward it will be important to look back at our own history, to its heroes and abolitionists, as an inspiration. Driven by the conviction that fighting slavery is part of who we are as a nation, we must continue on the long journey to freedom -- toward a world free from modern slavery.



Claudio A.
January 7, 2013

Claudio A. in Italy writes:

slavery. a terms ancient and ever modern even if progress should have cancelled it by minds of all. this is not and is the reason af a war against modern slavery, substantially the same of origins also if with other vests.But not imply slavery to be afraid of other capacities, to be afraid of their implicit superiority and possibility the preminence of more may be vanidies and compromised? not signify that power they appalise is insussistent without arrogance? More of this is the base of those who posed on slavery. i declare my war against slavery, any form of slavery claudio alpaca

Venita B.
Texas, USA
January 7, 2013

Venita B. in Texas writes:

We need President Obama to now issue the Modern Day Slavery Emancipation Proclamation. We are in a battle for liberty and equality for our children trapped in the sex trade and human trafficking. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation effective 1863 for all persons held as slaves in rebellious arears...but what about today's modern day slavery happening still, in America? President Obama must issue another Freedom Proclamation in current times, 2013, during the 150th. President Obama, I am asking you to issue the Freedom Proclamation for all slaves held in modern day slavery.


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