Home > Around the Web > Around the Web: Fall Semester Edition

This month’s Around the Web update was prepared by HAS supporter Kay Firth-Butterfield. Thanks, Kay!

The HAS call for papers, panels or workshops for the 2015 Conference, again at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati is out! So…HURRY…the deadline for proposals is October 15, 2014. We look forward to seeing you there.

If you are thinking of visiting London try to do so in June 2015, which will give you the opportunity to take part in Birkbeck College’s Conference on the modern and historical perspectives of slavery. If you are interesting in presenting then proposals of up to 500 words are due by October 1, 2014.

We start this issue of Around the Web with this question from The Atlantic: “How should we apologize for Slavery?” In the article, Theodore R. Johnson writes about an earlier piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates entitled “The Case for Reparations,” which, he says, “has reignited the debate about the politics of American remorse and forgiveness for its treatment of black people. As Coates and many others have pointed out, reparations are not only—arguably not even mostly—about remuneration, but about unequivocally acknowledging the wrongs the state has inflicted on black people. They’re about apologizing.” Johnson points out that the U.S. has apologized, for example, to Japan, but measures in Congress in 2008 and 2009 regarding slavery fell by the wayside.

The UNESCO International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is on March 25 each year. It serves to remind us of our mission and the fact that the role that slaves played in helping to obtain human rights needs to be taught more widely.

However, we must not forget that many remain enslaved today. I just came from a Board meeting of the BKC. It is a non-profit which rescues modern day slaves, principally in Texas. There is so little funding available for the modern abolitionist. For example, a partner organization was awarded $250,000 for a two year program covering seven States. We could probably spend that in two weekends in Houston!

The Boston Globe, in its article, “Where slavery thrived, inequality rules today” discusses the connection between past slavery and inequality in modern America, which is one of the main causes of modern slavery.

The guest blog on the HAS website by [David N. Gellman][] could have been written to couple with the article in the Huffington post by historian, Heather Ann Thompson, “The Fury in Ferguson and Our Forgotten Lessons From History,” and the blog entitled “The Living Consequences.” All three works emphasize in their own way the continuing legacy of antebellum slavery in America.

Modern Slavery in Mauritania was dealt with extensively in Kevin Bales’ excellent book, Disposable People. The New Yorker covers the ongoing fight there in its profile article about activist Biram Dah Abeid. For debates and panel discussions about modern slavery check out UN WEB TV.

On Politico, Ed Baptist answered criticism of his book on slavery made by an anonymous review published by the Economist. He, along with many others who took to social media to challenge the review. Within twenty four hours the review had been taken off the website, but its premise that “history” and “advocacy” should be kept separate suggests some of the challenges we face as Historians Against Slavery, especially as we advocate using history to call attention to contemporary problems. As Baptist asks, “If slavery was profitable … what else, today, might be immoral and yet profitable?” Also check out Baptist’s response on CNN.

Will you be in the area of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture before October 18, 2014? If so, be sure to visit their Slave Route display.

One debate students in my American Dilemmas and Human Trafficking classes share is whether Prostitution should be legalized. The Star Tribune adds to this conversation with Helen Rubenstein’s article, “Counterpoint: Technology plainly won’t make prostitution safer.” published on September 7, 2014. Another debate which you may be interested in having amongst your students is the influence of popular culture. if you are teaching modern slavery consider the defense proposed by Edward Bagley in his trial for enslaving a young woman in a BDSM torture trafficking situation: “I did it for her, it’s no different from 50 Shades of Gray.” If you are thinking of teaching a course on modern and historical slavery do use the services of our ‘Resources’ tab on the HAS website for syllabi and ideas.

In its magazine article entitled “The Freedom Riders, Then and Now” writers from the Smithsonian Museum caught up with some of the Freedom Riders who have gone on to be, mainly, Professors, lawyers, ministers and teachers. Joan Pleune was arrested a couple of years ago, aged 68, for protesting against the Iraqi War.

In August we welcomed three new speakers to the HAS Speakers Bureau. Looking for an excellent speaker with great knowledge on this subject?

Don’t forget to check out Historians Against Slavery’s Pinboard page, which contains links to news about slavery and human trafficking from around the world.

Finally, please consider using this website as a great resource for your students. Raising awareness is key to our mission and students who know about this site can re-tweet or incorporate articles from here into their own blogs. I am using these assignments in my Human Rights and Human Trafficking class. It encourages the students to do research, read widely, raise awareness and to think critically about the information with which they engage. If you are interested our website is http://www.educateagainsthumantrafficking.org.

Kay Firth-Butterfield (Burrough) is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at St. Edwards University, Austin Texas. She has taught courses on human trafficking since 2010 and is the author of “Human Rights and Human Trafficking”, a textbook for undergraduate students. She is a PhD Candidate in History at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom. She is a Barrister-at-Law and holds an LLM in International Law.

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