Slavery Since Emancipation

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Class End Date

January 3-7, 2017 at the University of Oklahoma

This class is full

A common misconception is that slavery is a problem of the past, abolished in the 19th century. However, legal slavery existed in a few countries into the 21st century and up to thirty million people remain victims of slavery today, despite the laws that supposedly prevent it. This seminar, led by Kevin Bales, the founder of the international anti-slavery organization Free the Slaves, will concentrate on slavery from the turn of the 20th century to the present. Of particular foci will be the relationship between slavery and multinational trade; slavery and its impact on the environment; human trafficking and sex trade; debt slavery; and the lived experiences of contemporary slaves. Students will have the opportunity to learn about social action and organizing for justice from a world renowned anti-slavery scholar and activist.

Readings furnished by OSLEP

Going undercover to meet slaves and slaveholders, Kevin Bales exposed how modern slavery penetrates the global economy in his Pulitzer-nominated book, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. The film based on this book, Slavery: A Global Investigation (TrueVision), which he co-wrote for HBO and Channel 4, won a Peabody Award and two Emmys. His book also inspired a project undertaken by seven Magnum photographers, which he helped to design and write, entitled Documenting Disposable People: Contemporary Global Slavery, which was mounted as a touring exhibition and published as a book by Hayward. Bales was named as the originator of one of “100 World-Changing Discoveries” by the Association of British Universities, and as a “visionary who is changing your world” by Utne Reader.

Disposable People went on to publication in ten other languages and won the Premio Viareggio for the Italian edition. It was followed by ?Understanding Global Slavery?, an edited collection of his academic articles, and by Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves (also published in Japan and Finland). Where Disposable People set out the size and shape of the global slavery problem, Ending Slavery outlines a coherent and achievable solution. After reading Ending Slavery, President Clinton told the plenary session of the Clinton Global Initiative: “It tells you that it is a problem we can solve, and here’s how to do it.” In 2011, Ending Slavery won the $100,000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Promoting World Order.

Bales is Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull, UK. In 2016 the Wilberforce Institute won the Queen's Anniversary Prize (often referred to as "a Knighthood for Research Institutes.") He was also a Co-Founder of Free the Slaves in Washington DC, the US sister organization of Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights group founded in 1787.

He is currently the Principal Investigator for the Antislavery Usable Past project, a five-year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, (£1.8 million) including three universities and twenty partners organisations, as well as the lead author for the Walk Free Foundation's Global Slavery Index. Bill Gates described the Global Slavery Index as an “important tool to let governments, non-governmental organizations, and businesses take stock and take action against the terrible problem.”

He serves on the Board of Directors of the $100 million Freedom Fund that aims to lead the eradication of modern slavery. For 13 years he served on the Board of International Cocoa Initiative. He also served as a consultant to the United Nations Global Program on Trafficking of Human Beings, and advised the US, British, Irish, Norwegian, and Nepali governments, as well as the governments of the Economic Community of West African States and the European Parliament, on the formulation of policy on slavery and human trafficking. He edited an Anti-Human Trafficking Toolkit for the United Nations. In 2004 he completed a two-year study of human trafficking into the US for the National Institute of Justice, and with the Human Rights Center at Berkeley, produced a report on forced labor in the USA. In 2008 he was invited to address the Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Paris, and to join in the planning of the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative.

He published To Plead Our Own Cause: Personal Stories by Today’s Slaves with Zoe Trodd; and with Ron Soodalter The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today, the first full exploration of contemporary slavery in the United States, an exposé and plan to make America slave-free for the first time in its history. On January 19, 2016 he published Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World - the breakthrough work that identified modern slavery as a major contributor to global climate change.

In 1990, Bales teamed with Simon Pell, then head of Arts for Labour in the UK, to form the fundraising and research consultancy, Pell & Bales Ltd. The firm raises funds for medical charities, human rights groups, environmental campaigns, overseas development, and other charities and voluntary sector groups. In November 2011 fundraising for charities by the company passed the one billion pound mark (£1,000,000,000 or $1.6 billion).

Other awards include the Laura Smith Davenport Human Rights Award in 2005; the Judith Sargeant Murray Award for Human Rights in 2004; and the Human Rights Award of the University of Alberta in 2003. He was also awarded a Prime Mover Fellowship by the Hunt Alternatives Fund in 2009 and a Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, by Loyola University Chicago, in 2010. He is Honorary Professor in the Department of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham 2013-2016; and was the Richard & Ann Pozen Visiting Professor in Human Rights, University of Chicago in 2015.

Bales makes his home on the island of Guernsey in the British Channel Islands.