This year marks the century-and-a-half anniversary of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. On Sept. 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln set the date of freedom for the nation’s 3 million slaves.
“As many of us know, slavery did not die when America abolished it in the 1800s,” says Lucia Mann, author of Rented Silence (www.luciamann.com), which explores British Colonial slavery in South Africa, and the victims who survived the institutional brutality.
“The opening statement of the Declaration of Independence is, ‘We believe these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ Almost 100 years later, in 1865, the 13th Amendment extended this belief to ‘Negroes.’ To this day, involuntary servitude is outlawed, and yet, it still exists!”
Mann has a personal interest in slavery. Her Sicilian mother was a sex slave and a World War II concentration camp survivor. As a child, Mann was forced to live with her father, who was also her mother’s master, in South Africa.
“According to the United Nations, there are more than 27 million slaves worldwide, which is more than twice the number of those who were enslaved over the 400 years that transatlantic slavers trafficked humans to work in the Americas,” Mann says.
Many slaves today are forced into prostitution while others are used as unpaid laborers to manufacture goods bought in the United States, she says.
“It’s almost impossible to buy clothes or goods anymore without inadvertently supporting the slave trade,” she says.
Mann, a Canadian and British citizen who considers herself an “American at heart,” says Americans should dedicate themselves to opposing modern human trafficking, both worldwide and within U.S. borders, since the nation was largely built on the backs of slaves.
Human trafficking has become the second fastest growing criminal industry worldwide, behind drug trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s a $32 billion industry, and half of those trafficked are children. Half of the billions spent come from industrialized nations, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
So, what should be done when a U.S. citizen suspects a case of human trafficking? Mann says the following organizations are a good start:
• Catholic Sisters congregations, 888-373-7888: Grand events, like this year’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, are reportedly hot spots for prostitution rings involving trafficked slaves. The same was true for the 2012 Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, which is why nuns throughout the Midwest collaborated in an awareness campaign, which ultimately led to training cab drivers and hotel staff to recognize signs of modern slavery and how to report it.
• Victims hotline and on-line tips reporting: The Modern-Day Slavery Reporting Centre, created by Mann, is the first hotline – 1 (800) 610-7035, Ext. 227 — in the United States and Canada for victims. It also provides volunteer translators (including Mann) for victims who don’t speak English. The website, www.mdsrc.org, includes a section that makes it easy for third parties to report suspicious activity by clicking “File a Report.” This section allows visitors to volunteer information.
• Federal Bureau of Investigation – report human trafficking, 1-888-428-7581: This number can be used 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST to report concerns to the FBI, which also offers plenty of information about human trafficking on its website.
• Various easy-to-find anti-trafficking organizations: Type in “human trafficking” on any online search engine and several sites will appear promoting various methods of combating modern slavery, Mann says. The important part is following through on an interest to help, she says.
“I have a firsthand account of dealing with national prejudice and human slavery, but I think many people are compelled to help victims of human trafficking because freedom is a universal desire,” Mann says. “Any individual can make a difference in someone’s life. That is the motive behind my books; I want victims to know that, like me, their tragedy can become their triumph.”
Lucia Mann was born in British colonial South Africa in the wake of World War II and lives in West Covina, Calif., and British Columbia, Canada. She retired from freelance journalism in 1998 and wrote three books to give voice to those who suffered brutalities and captivity decades ago, and today.