Combating Modern Slavery 150 Years After the Emancipation Proclamation

escapegallery001Posted by Luis CdeBaca / September 22, 2012


Luis CdeBaca serves as the Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, announcing his intention to emancipate all the slaves in the Confederate states that did not return to the Union within 100 days. On January 1, 1863, he declared free the 3.1 million slaves in those states.

Today, we celebrate the 150th anniversary of that date in 1862, which heralded the victory of freedom and justice, and our country’s ongoing commitment to those values. Yet, at the same time, as many as 27 million men, women, and children around the world live in a state of modern slavery — what we also refer to as trafficking in persons.

So as we mark this occasion, we reflect not just on the tragedy of the past, but on the ongoing responsibility to fight for freedom. To honor the memories of those who lived and died in bondage, and those who fought and died so that others might be free, we dedicate ourselves to combating involuntary servitude wherever it may occur in the modern era.
That’s why around the world, American embassies are commemorating this important anniversary with receptions, panel discussions, film screenings, and radio broadcasts for national anti-trafficking activists, NGO leaders, government officials, students, and academics. In partnership with the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office), the Cincinnati-based National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has produced a film that features the 2012 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Heroes and shows how the exploitation that takes place today in sweatshops and brothels, on farms and fishing boats relates to the chattel slavery of the American past. Just as abolitionists of the 1800s fought to free slaves forced to work on the plantations of the South, the 2012 TIP Report Heroes have devoted their lives to fight human trafficking and protect victims of modern slavery.
Carrying forward America’s commitment to freedom for all people, the TIP Office works with other U.S. government agencies to coordinate government-wide anti-trafficking efforts and uses the annual TIP Report to encourage governments around the world to take a stand in the fight against trafficking. Freeing victims, preventing trafficking, and bringing traffickers to justice are the ultimate goals of the report and of the U.S government’s anti-trafficking policy.
The United States is not alone in bearing the responsibility to meet this challenge. All governments are responsible for punishing traffickers, protecting victims, and working to prevent this crime from occurring. And NGOs are raising awareness and linking communities and businesses to bring new energy to this fight.
As the film notes, the 2012 TIP Heroes show how passionate and dedicated individuals can make such a big difference in the lives of so many. As we commemorate this important date in history, let us echo Secretary Clinton’s call to each do our part to end modern slavery once and for all. Join us. Take a stand for freedom.
For more information, visit or
Related Content: One Million Footprints on the Path to Freedom | White House Blog — The Emancipation Proclamation Is 150 Years Old

  • President Obama Unveils Landmark Actions To Fight Human Trafficking (
  • Film links 19th century slavery to contemporary bondage (
  • Exhibits (TOP IMAGE)

    Invisible: Slavery Today

    Invisible: Slavery Today is the world’s first museum-quality, permanent exhibition on the subjects of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

    The overall design and feel of Invisible is that of a dingy warehouse in an unfamiliar city, filled with wood, metal and plastic containers – shipping cartons for human beings. Through a variety of techniques and media, including videos, sounds and touch-screen presentations, Invisible offers a comprehensive examination of slavery in the modern world through the life experiences of five individuals who were caught up in one of the five most common forms of exploitation: forced labor, bonded indenture, child slavery, sex trafficking and domestic servitude. The exhibition explores the causes of slavery, the economic forces that have contributed to its growth, and the response of government, the justice system and the general public to this scourge.

    But Invisible is not just a grim walk through degradation and mistreatment. A major concluding section is devoted to anti-slavery activities underway around the world, especially by the Freedom Center’s partners in the exhibition: Free the Slaves, Goodweave, International Justice Mission and Polaris Project. Visitors are also asked to make a personal commitment to be 21st Century Abolitionists in the cause of freedom.

    The exhibition was made possible by generous underwriting gifts from the Skirball Foundation and Lois and Richard Rosenthal.




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