In the News: Slavery

modern day slavery statsAmerican finance grew on the backs of slaves

By Edward E. Baptist and Louis Hyman / Chicago Sun-Times

Last weekend we watched the Oscars and, like most people, were pleased that “Twelve Years a Slave” won Best Picture. No previous film has so accurately captured the reality of enslaved people’s lives. Yet though Twelve Years shows us the labor of slavery, it omits the financial system — asset securitization — that made slavery possible.

Most people can see how slave labor, like the cotton-picking in “Twelve Years A Slave,” was pure exploitation. Few recognize that a financial system nearly as sophisticated as ours today helped Solomon Northup’s enslavers steal him, buy him, and market the cotton he made. The key patterns of that financial history continue to repeat themselves in our history. Again and again, African-American individuals and families have worked hard to produce wealth, but American finance, whether in the antebellum period or today, has snatched black wealth through bonds backed by asset securitization.

Recently, the assets behind these bonds were houses. In the antebellum period, the assets were slaves themselves.

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Will 12 Years a Slave help the fight against slavery?

Portraying and documenting slavery on film is wrought with logistical and ethical challenges. Now back in the spotlight, can film improve campaign impact?

Oliver Balch Guardian Professional Tuesday 4 March 2014 11.14 EST

Guddi was trafficked into Mumbai’s sex industry aged 11. The first man she was forced to go with brutalised her so severely that she was hospitalised for three months. A dozen years on, she’s still being forced to work the streets.

Her story is now the subject of a moving documentary. Shot by British journalist Hazel Thompson, the film Taken offers a rare glimpse into the dangerous, day-to-day life of a sex worker.

With Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave winning the Oscar for best film on Sunday, the subject is in the spotlight in Hollywood and anti-slavery groups are increasingly using film to raise awareness.

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