August 23rd is International Slavery Remembrance Day. Too often we think of the institution of slavery as something in the past. Indeed, the history of slavery is as old as the history of mankind. There always existed the more powerful, the more influential, the richer…and the poorest, the more ignorant, the more vulnerable.
The ancient Romans had slaves, the Egyptian slaves built the pyramids and the Great Wall of China was constructed by more than 3 million slaves.
We are familiar with the African-American Slave trade that involved not only the Americas and Africa but relied upon European countries to provide the slave transports.
Sadly, slavery is not the past. According to an article in the Washington Post, Oct. 17, 2013, it was estimated by the Walk-Free Foundation that more than 29 million people throughout the world were living as slaves (nearly 60,000 in the US). In 1981 Mauritania was the last country to officially abolish slavery. Still, that country has one of the highest percentages of the population (nearly 4%) enslaved.
The word “slave” was first applied to captives of Slavic origin in southeastern Europe and is defined as a human being who is owned by and absolutely subject to another human being, as by capture, purchase or birth. There are many types of slavery, from children and young women sold in the sex trade to workers harvesting coffee beans and cacoa, miners in gold mines and factory workers working under appalling conditions.
Over the next few months I will introduce thoughts (and facts) about slavery in the field of textiles and textile production.