Modern slavery around the globe

Slavery did not end with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1862.

Today there are approximately 27 million slaves throughout the world, Kevin Bales, Ph.D., said.

Bales, as this year’s University of Alaska Bartlett Lecture Series speaker, will present a video on Nov. 6 and 7 of young men being purchased for $40.

“This is real slavery,” Bales said. “This isn’t any different from slavery in history. People are under complete control.”

Bales is the director of Free the Slaves, a national human rights organization with the goal of raising awareness about contemporary slavery.

Slavery is outlined by Free the Slaves as a social and economic relationship in which one person is held against his or her will, controlled through violence or threats, paid nothing and economically exploited.

Bales said slavery is cheaper than it has ever been. He said that in Alabama in 1850 a slave would cost about $1,850, which is $38,000 by today’s standards. Today the average cost for a slave throughout the world is $100.

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About 10 years ago, Bales was at a public event in London when he saw a pamphlet on Anti-Slavery International, where he is now a trustee.

He said he was shocked that slavery was happening as it is. He had always been interested in human rights issues and was unaware that this was going on. He wanted to do something about it.

“There was a lot of outrage, but very little analysis,” Bales said. “So, I began to dig.”

Bales went all over the world to places where slavery was occurring. He has looked at topics such as how slavery fits into the global economy, human trafficking and how products resulting from slavery get into the lives of consumers.

Bales said there are about 200,000 slaves in the United States. He said that there may not be any slavery in Alaska, but that doesn’t mean Alaskans don’t see the effects of slavery.

“There are a fair amount of things that have slavery in them that we are not aware of,” Bales said.

Bales cites consumer products as examples and is working with the chocolate industry to remove child and slave labor from the product chain.

Bales has just finished an anti-slavery tool kit for the United Nations. He is also finishing another book.

While he is in Alaska, Bales will speak to the Fairbanks, Juneau and Anchorage campuses about the dramatic changes in slavery, how slavery touches people’s lives and what people can do about it. Bales will talk about his book published in 1999, “Disposable people: New Slavery in the Global Economy,” for which he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He will also show his Peabody and Emmy-winning documentary film, “Slavery: a global investigation.”