How Many Slaves Work for You?

By Louis Masur, the New York Times

The original Emancipation Proclamation. (Click to enlarge.)

The original Emancipation Proclamation. (Click to enlarge.)

The Emancipation Proclamation, signed 150 years ago today, was a revolutionary achievement, and widely recognized as such at the time…

Click here to read the text of the proclamation.

On New Year’s Eve, 1862, “watch-night” services in auditoriums, churches, camps and cabins united thousands, free as well as enslaved, who sang, prayed and counted down to midnight. At a gathering of runaway slaves in Washington, a man named Thornton wept: “Tomorrow my child is to be sold never more.”

The Day of Jubilee, as Jan. 1, 1863 was called, arrived at last and celebrations of deliverance and freedom commenced. “We are all liberated by this proclamation,” Frederick Douglass observed. “The white man is liberated, the black man is liberated.” The Fourth of July “was great,” he proclaimed, “but the First of January, when we consider it in all its relations and bearings, even greater.”

Yet the day never took hold as Emancipation Day, an occasion to commemorate freedom for all Americans. Nearly three years would pass before the ratification of the 13th Amendment officially abolished slavery. All too quickly, the joy of emancipation succumbed to the reality of a circumscribed freedom in which blacks found themselves the victims of economic injustice and racial discrimination….

Sexual slavery is the most common form of human trafficking today. What if this were your child?

Sexual slavery is the most common form of human trafficking today. What if this were your child?

In 1963, standing before the Lincoln Memorial, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. labeled the Proclamation a “beacon light of hope” to African-Americans and used the centennial to call for a renewed commitment to civil rights in America. Fifty years later, we might consider what a new Emancipation Proclamation would look like, one written for our times.

It would, above all, focus American and international attention on the millions of people still held in servitude….

In the United States, thousands are held against their will; minors, especially, are the victims of ruthless exploitation. While other countries are worse offenders, the United States, according to State Department reports, serves as both a source and a destination for the trafficking of children….

Today we should celebrate the extraordinary moment in the nation’s history when slavery yielded to freedom. But the work must continue.

Human traffic today is a $32 billion industry. (Click to enlarge.)

Human traffic today is a $32 billion industry. (Click to enlarge.)

For those who insist they would have been abolitionists during the Civil War, now is the chance to become one.

Click here to find out how many slaves work for you.  Click here to help companies eliminate slavery from their supply chain.

The new Middle Passage (Click to enlarge)

The new Middle Passage (Click to enlarge)

Thousands lined up at the National Archive on December 30, 2012 and January 1, 2013 for the free viewing of the original document.

Click here to read the text of the proclamation.

Click here for a description of the programs about the Emancipation Proclamation being presented for the 150th anniversary of the document.

Click here to check out Louis Masur’s new book on the controversy surrounding the proclamation and how President Lincoln managed them: Lincoln’s Hundred Days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union.