Foreign Policy Blogs

Human Slavery Today Versus Yesterday


What is slavery? A horrid word from our past, something we have struggled to forget for almost two hundred years? Its all, and none of those things, it is a plague currently among us! Would you believe me if I told you we have more slaves today, than that of our legal slave trading past?

On January 1, 1863 Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was made and with it the proclamation made the abolition of slavery an a goal that would free approximately four million slaves according to the 1860 Census of 1860. Slavery was officially abolished in the United States on with the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress on January 31, 1865. The end of slavery in Great Britain officially was passed by Parliament on March 25, 1807.

One does not find the deeds of our ancestors to be noble and just, nor does one find the idea of modern slavery as moral, but the truth of the matter is the problem did not end when it was made an illegal act. As a matter of fact slavery is more rampant today than it was in seventeenth century as there is an estimated 27 million modern slaves today.

Slavery is defined as, “The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household”. Kevin Bales state in his book, Understanding Global Slavery, that slavery is “the state of control exercised over the slave based on violence or its threat, a lack of any payment beyond subsistence, and the theft of the labor or other qualities of the slave for economic gain” ( Bales, page 9). Therefore in a general respect slavery is still what it was at the time we began taking slaves out of Africa. However today the crime of slavery has a more seedy and sinister side, as it is the dark underbelly of what is often a complex criminal network, which incorporates the arms and drug trades, that spans the globe.

There are various forms of human slavery today, they include debt bondage, sex trafficking, and forced labor. Children are also used as soldiers, which is also a form of slavery, as they are forcibly recruited, misguided, abused ,and are not of an age to legally make a clear and concise choice.

What is the difference between today’s slavery and that the slaves of our past? The largest difference in modern slavery is the lack of value that is placed on a person who is a slave
Life ownership versus months or a few years, they are cheaper – people have become a disposable commodity, cheap and easy labor one can just toss in the garbage when you no longer have a use for them. They are more often taken into the slave trade for one purpose only, sexual slavery, versus agricultural and domestic labor. This is not to say that we do not have a serious problem with slavery today in those fields. But as slaves are cheaper and less valued as a resources of production, they are often even more dehumanized than in that of our past.

The use or treatment of slaves differ in some regions or countries, as well gender and religion can also play a role in the use and treatment of slaves. However what remains the same is that a human being is enslaved by another, stripped of their rights, disrespected, abused and looked upon as subhuman by their owners. The main thing that remains the same is that this practice of selling and abusing another human being is just as appalling today as it was the day the first slave was loaded onto a ship and taken from their home in Africa.

To be continued



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict