A belated Happy New Year to all of our supporters and volunteers! While woefully overdue, hopefully this first Around the Web bulletin of 2014 is still brimming with food for thought and inspiration for action.
Major sporting events like the Super Bowl often create concern about spikes in sex trafficking in the event’s host city, but Kate Mogulescu warns that such reports often turn out to be rhetoric that harms the most vulnerable. Reports about sex trafficking around American sports events may also direct attention away from labor trafficking in Brazil and elsewhere surrounding infrastructure projects connected to international sporting events like the World Cup. Not to mention patterns of exploitation in sectors like India’s handmade carpet industry that are not connected to high-profile events and are therefore easier for many to put out of mind.
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., day, members of Congress and of prominent African American Legacy Families issued a "declaration of empathy" with victims of modern-day enslavement in India. A recent project by Equal Justice Initiative has also been calling attention to how the history of the slave trade in Montgomery, Alabama, connects to present-day injustices, while a recent study of 13 Myths that Sustained Slavery raises questions about which stories we tell ourselves to evade self-indictment today. A controversial decision by activist musician Ani DiFranco to hold a retreat at a former slave plantation also raised anew the question of how the past continues to haunt the present.
The passing of Nelson Mandela called forth millions of reflections on his life and work, including one from President Barack Obama which noted that "the struggles that follow the victory of formal equality and universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important"—a useful reminder for those struggling to ignite a new abolitionist movement.
Shamere McKenzie, who spoke at the inaugural Historians Against Slavery conference, was featured in an article in TIME magazine.
A panel discussion on Religious Responses to Human Trafficking held at Rice University explored how evangelical groups engage with the issue.
A new documentary on sex trafficking received a positive review in the New York Times.
Several stories recently have discussed the treatment and status of domestic workers brought to the United States by foreign diplomats, including one in Slate by Devyani Kobragade that discussed workers brought from India. Historical perspective on nineteenth-century indentured laborers from India is provided by a recent review of the book Coolie Woman.
A moving article on Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno closed by raising the question of whether "after abolition … [racism] would adapt itself to new circumstances, becoming even more elusive, even more entrenched in human affairs." As if in answer to that question, philosophers writing at the New York Times blog The Stone posed one of their own: Is the United States still a "Racial Democracy"?
Defining slavery is one of the most contentious but consequential things that historians against slavery do, yet it is important partly because the term "slavery" is so often wielded to describe systems ranging from adjunct faculty positions to food stamps to modern-day business management techniques.
Finally, the continued accolades garnered by the movie 12 Years a Slave have brought continued attention to the history of slavery and its enduring effects on the modern world. See especially recent commentary on actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s familial links to slavery, HAS Co-Director Stacey Robertson’s reflection on the movie, Mary Niall Mitchell’s Common-Place article, historian Jason Phillips’s review at the Civil War Monitor, and actor Chiwetel Ejiofor’s thoughts on why it’s so important to teach students about the history of British slavery.