The generations since the passing of the 13th Amendment have lost their way, their vision, and history. For these individuals, they have forgotten their past. It is a travesty for all, especially our youth. Imagine not knowing your parents, your hometown, the childhood friends, the pain and struggles you overcame. How much different would your choices be today? Come with me on a trek through history (in a very condensed version) to find our way, for without a rudder the ship has no course.
The southwestern portion of Russia is where the term “slave” originates; the modern country of Slovenia’s populace was called “Slovs”. This area was hit often by the Ottoman Empire. The Slovs were prize catches for their beautiful features and strong bodies, not the color of their skin. With their coast lines ravaged with Muslim slave traders Italy outlawed slavery in 960. This is due to the already 500 years of Muslim attacks on port towns along the Mediterranean coast. This first step in halting slavery was confusing to the world. Since the beginning of man, slavery has existed. It is difficult to find any historical account without slaves in the text or implied as labor. It is a “natural” state of existence for those who are the masters as well as those who become slaves. There is no questioning or misunderstanding; it is how life has existed for thousands of years. This first step by Italy braves the first step into the new world of freedom we now enjoy.
Around the world, from 1802 to 1846, over 60 nations and territories abolished slavery. In our own country in 1808 importation of slaves was made illegal. This was the first step in outlawing slavery as a whole in our nation. This fight continued in other countries for another 150 years. The central portions of Africa’s nations began abolishing slavery. Many of these slave trades were being conducted by the government itself. Change was not easy for the Muslim/Ottoman Empire. India was prepared and ready to end its slave trade since they were being exported to the Middle East by the thousands. It was only after the East India Trade Company (made famous recently in movies by Disney in Pirates of the Carabean) ended its control in the region did they attain freedom. Most European countries freed slaves when entering their borders. To repatriate freed slaves Liberia (1822) and Gabon (1848) were founded on the African continent by America and France, respectively.
From 1802-1863 most of South America abolishes slavery; however Brazil still holds out because of vast plantations and need for slave labor. Considering Brazil had a 55% take of the total slaves during the Atlantic Slave Trade, it is difficult for them to wean themselves from the free labor they have enjoyed for hundreds of years. The First Barbary War (1801-1805) happened with the help of U.S. Marines and prevailed against the slave trade in the Mediterranean. This first strike by American forces overseas to stop slavery spoke of future history in our own country. The Marine anthem still refers to the “shores of Tripoli”.
During the latter half of the 19th century, the last of the suppliers and customers of slavery relented. Only after the turn of the 20th century did the Ottoman Empire realize that the rest of the world had changed. Their ways, which had lasted for thousands of years, was at a close. Even the United Arab Emerates, located in the Red Sea region, did not abolish slavery until 1970. Niger, in central Africa, did not abolish slavery until 2003. Muritania, the last holdout of slavery in the world, finally abolished the practice six years ago in 2007.
Even today there are pockets of slavery in the world and the UN is working to wipe these out completely. For Americans, recognizing their struggle to escape and come to the land of freedom and opportunity is a blessing. For these individuals, it was not 7 or 8 generations ago; it was yesterday. They still hold the scars on their bodies of their masters. We welcome these individuals and their struggle to escape. For these tortured (literally) people it might have been the last flight they ever will take from their homeland. My Grandfather left what is now modern day Iraq in the last years of the 19th century. Had he stayed he would be taken slave into the Ottoman Empire’s Army. Their perspective is not one as a victim, but freed from a death sentence. This strength makes our daily struggles in traffic, wrong orders at the drive through, or even disagreements with loved ones trivial by comparison. Accepting their strength in our society builds our character when it is recognized.
Look now at the Muslim world’s (not a specific country) stagnation in the past 100 years. Their progress absent, innovation non-existent, living conditions depressed, social structures for tolerance and equality intolerable (compared to American standards). The women are not allowed to drive, vote, speak publicly, hold office, or enter into contracts. The children are possessions and arranged (or forced) marriages are still commonplace. The lack of slave labor for these countries stopped because the slave traders were stopped before they could deliver their “goods”. It was not social or political pressure that brought about some sense of guilt toward slavery that caused the change; it was outside pressure that choked the supply. So, by default the use of slaves in the Middle East simply dried up. There have been no apologies issued by these countries or leaders. There is indignation and obstinate rhetoric to America about our slave trade. The hypocrisy drips from their lips keeping focus away from thousands of years of Middle East slavery.
Focusing America on our own failings does not erase the Middle East’s history. Confronting the perpetrators of their own sins gives power to the truth. Keeping our children and population ignorant of history of the Muslim slave trade allows the guilt of our own sins to perpetuate. The Bible has something about the log in your eye and the splinter in mine. Yes, I have a splinter; how about we take a look at your log.