Slavery is a tragedy and one of the darkest pages of human history. At present, slavery is officially prohibited in all countries of the world. Nevertheless, even in modern conditions, such a social relic not only exists but also flourishes, including in free and democratic states. After centuries of history, slavery took other forms, but it still manifests itself in forcible retention of people and their compulsion to fulfill certain duties.
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They include prostitution, working in harsh conditions, and other activities that force a person to experience both moral and physical suffering. In history, there are examples of slaves’ uprisings aimed at demanding freedom as an inalienable right. However, despite the fact that society has come a long way from the slave system to democracy, the issue of human trafficking is still topical. On the example of historical facts, it is possible to see how many misfortunes this practice has brought. The use of free or cheap labor is a relevant social problem, and its solution in modern conditions requires urgent measures.
History of Slavery
Slavery as a phenomenon originates since ancient times. The first mention of slaves can be seen even in the rock paintings that belong to the Stone Age. Even then, captured people from another tribe were enslaved. This tendency was also typical for ancient civilizations. For example, according to Moore (2015), in Ancient Greece and Rome, using the slave labor of peoples conquered flourished for more than one century. For free citizens of ancient Greece and Rome, using free labor was good and gave impetus to the development of these ancient civilizations.
Slavery on the North American continent appeared after the colonists had mastered the lands of the New World. Here, racism began to manifest itself. As Williams (2014) remarks, the opinion of the inferiority of the Negroid race was equally shared by all the members of society. Nevertheless, American racism reached its peak in the South since, for planters, African Americans were still property. Descendants from the African continent were refused to be human.
After the end of all wars and revolutions, slaves received legal freedom but continued to work involuntarily (Broyld, 2014). Most planters considered the institution of free labor to be an indispensable component of society. The right to have slaves was available to almost any white person. In the 20th century, slavery on the North American continent became a publicly discredited manifestation (van der Linden, 2003).
Any forms of manifestations of intolerance turned out to be unacceptable, and today, relevant legislation regulates a complete ban on human trafficking and the use of free labor contrary to personal desire. The violation of this law is fraught with criminal liability, which indicates a complete abandonment of the slave system. All these facts indicate that human trafficking and coercion to work have a long history.
Movements Against Slavery and Revolts
When talking about mass movements against slavery, in addition to the ancient uprising of Spartacus, major revolts took place in America. Here, there were occasional riots that were massive. The cruel exploitation of slave labor at plantations met the resistance of African-Americans. Over time, it became increasingly stubborn. On August 30, 1800, the revolt of slaves near Richmond in Virginia took place (Moore, 2015). Under the leadership of blacksmith Gabriel, about a thousand armed slaves marched to Richmond. Nevertheless, the uprising failed, and Gabriel and his thirty-five comrades were captured and executed.
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At the trial, they openly announced their intention to do at Washington and other fighters for the liberation of North America from colonial oppression did. In 1822, the authorities of South Carolina uncovered a conspiracy in which about ten thousand slaves participated (Moore, 2015). The head was free African-American Denmark Vesey who established contact with the slaves of Haiti. The conspirators who prepared the insurrection began making peaks, bayonets, and other weapons. Finally, Vesey and several dozen conspirators were hanged.
Ferocious repressions did not break the resolve of slaves to seek their freedom. According to Moore (2015), a fiery pamphlet against slavery published in 1829 was widely spread among them. In 1831, the uprising of African-Americans in Virginia took place, and it was led by preacher Nathan Turner (Moore, 2015).
He marked the day of the uprising on August, 21. The preacher told assembled slaves for prayer that the hour of liberation had come and, justifying the right of the people to freedom by the texts of the Bible, he called upon them to exterminate enslavers mercilessly. The revolutionaries went to their plantations where a large mass of slaves joined them. However, within a few days, the local militia and government troops suppressed the uprising. Turner and his sixteen companions in arms were hanged.
The movement against slavery had, first of all, a moral and religious basis. Meanwhile, according to Sartorius (2015), only representatives of the most radical circles seriously thought about the equality of races. For most of the northerners, the situation when freed slaves could return to their homeland seemed to be ideal. For these purposes, a special colony was created in Africa, Liberia, the country of free people (Moore, 2015). Suffice it to say that the idea of returning slaves from America to Africa was supported by Abraham Lincoln who did more than anyone else for the liberation of slaves. At the same time, for most northerners, it was unthinkable to give former slaves not only freedom but also all the rights of the white citizens of the United States.
In the middle of the 19th century, the struggle around slavery reached such high intensity that the very existence of the United States as a single country was threatened. Northern states were increasingly burdened by the archaic institutions of the South where people gradually began to realize themselves as a separate nation and culture that was worthy of separate existence. Finally, slavery in the United States was abolished only in 1865 after four years of the bloody Civil War (Williams, 2014). Nevertheless, it took more than one hundred years before former slaves, and their descendants gained full rights in the United States.
Transnational Labor and Slavery in the Modern World
It is worth noting that the slave trade has become one of the critical and large-scale problems of society. Today, slavery exists in new forms and affects millions of people around the world. One of the modern types of this concept is, above all, labor coercion when a person is used on plantations or in heavy industrial works. Also, it is essential to mention the use of people as donors for the transplantation of organs and tissues, forced marriage, pregnancy and childbearing, fictitious adoption, human trafficking, and sexual slavery. According to Amrith (2014), victims of deceit and violence, as a rule, come from the most vulnerable social groups, refugees, migrants. Every year, millions of people, mostly women and children, become commodities and are exploited.
Causes of Modern Slavery
When considering slavery as a phenomenon with characteristic features, it can be noted that countries with a low-developed economy are most exposed to this problem. As van der Linden (2003) remarks, the difficulty of finding jobs forces many people to become a cheap labor force voluntarily. Migration caused by military conflicts, poverty, and other factors are also fraught with the compulsion to perform heavy duties.
The lack of opportunities to earn money honestly is one of the frequent factors that inevitably relate to the theory of slavery. Despite the prevailing stereotype that a person becomes forced under compulsion, it is not uncommon for people to be ready to perform hard work to avoid death from hunger and poverty. In the search for a better life, they are ready to entrust their lives in the hands of those who seek to benefit at their expense. The inability of the authorities to control all the manifestations of slavery can be caused not only by the inability to detect appropriate channels for human trafficking but also the unwillingness to take serious measures (Amrith, 2014). Meanwhile, the assistance of the world’s governments is mandatory, otherwise, the struggle will be ineffective.
Thus, the presence of slavery in the modern world indicates that the theme of the struggle against this issue is relevant not only for the long historical events in the New World, namely, the transatlantic supply of slaves from Africa to America. It is poverty and the lack of rights in the Third World countries, the plundering of their national wealth by transnational corporations, and the corruption of local governments become a favorable background for preserving this anti-social phenomenon. In order to completely eradicate it, it is essential to mobilize all possible resources and achieve the complete eradication of slavery.
Slavery is a relevant problem of the modern world and, despite democracy, this social relic continues to manifest itself and afflicts many people. Throughout the world’s history, the revolts occurred, which, nevertheless, did not stop the slave system for a long time. Until recently, slavery in the United States was one of the significant pages of this country’s development. The modern legislation prohibits any form of human trafficking and other forms of forced coercion to work. The participation of the world’s governments in solving this issue is compulsory.
Amrith, S. S. (2014). Currents of global migration. Development and Change, 45(5), 1134-1154.
Broyld, D. J. (2014). Harriet Tubman: Transnationalism and the land of a Queen in the late antebellum. Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, 12(2), 78-98.
Moore, B. (2015). Injustice: The social bases of obedience and revolt. New York, NY: Routledge.
Sartorius, D. (2015). The great African slave revolt of 1825: Cuba and the fight for freedom in Matanzas by Manuel Barcia. Cuban Studies, 43(1), 239-241.
van der Linden, M. (2003). Labour history as the history of multitudes. Labour/Le Travail, 52, 235-243.
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Williams, E. (2014). Capitalism and slavery. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press.