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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
How did slavery change the world?
A slave market of African men
Special events are being held to mark the abolition of the slave trade and raise awareness that slavery still exists today in all but name.

The UN's cultural organisation, Unesco, announced that 23 August will be a special remembrance day for slavery because it's the anniversary of the 1791 San Domingo (Haiti) revolt.

Despite being illegal, it's estimated that millions of people are still affected by modern forms of slavery including bonded and forced labour and people trafficking.

One of the events will be held on Goree Island, Senegal which was once a major transit centre for the slave trade, and also a new slavery museum has been opened in the US state of Ohio.

How did slavery change the world? How does it still affect the world today? How should modern day slavery be dealt with? Send us your views.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

In an era of globalisation, child trafficking, false adoption, arranged marriages and consensual servitude are some of new ways of carrying on the greatest human sin ever. As a result of slavery we still live with the legacy of the Diaspora. Mixed race, black Caribbeans, Afro Americans, black British or black other must know this we are the descendants of slaves from Africa who were in most cases forcibly removed and transported to work as slaves.
Daniel Ogers, Sierra Leonean based in Lodon

Slavery made some countries rich and impoverished others albeit at the expense of certain groups of people. Slavery exists today and will continue as long as there is a large disparity of wealth amongst the world's population.
Charles, Montreal, Canada

Slavery in one form or another is intrinsic to the capitalist ideology. The wealth that the US / UK now have would be impossible without slavery, or at the very least, a sub-class of people paid very little. To pretend that this does not still go on today is very naive - we just can't see it in front of our faces. The state of Mississippi didn't finally abolish slavery until 1995!
Lloyd Evans, Brighton, UK

Slavery is one of those wonderful things that gives Unsco and governments in general a great excuse/reason for a big celebration/party..lots of food , drink. flag waving, resolutions as to how they will solve the problems etc..What do they do? NOTHING¿Please prove me wrong!
Mangwa.g, South America

Slavery existed in Africa before the British just as opium existed in China. The British merchants exploited the trade and became efficient at it, bringing misery until prominent British people pressured the government to put a stop to it in both cases. Similarly, in both cases America stepped in and continued the trade. Britain passed legislation at the beginning of the 20th Century to dismantle its Empire...now America has stepped in there as well!
Tim, London

Slavery was one of the biggest influences on the world
N.Williams, Australia
Slavery was one of the biggest influences on the world. The Roman empire was built on the backbone of the slaves, and the Roman Empire was a major influence on the whole world, ruling most of the know world in its time. With the conversion of the Legions to Christianity it changed the whole of Europe and therefore changed the way the world worked as the empires rose and fall throughout the centuries.
N.Williams, Australia

In essence, the transatlantic slave trade was the first recorded worldwide trade encompassing three continents. It worked as a demand-supply mechanism whereby Europeans developed a demand which triggered supply by Africans. African chiefs, nobility, traders, and middlemen helped the Europeans by going in the interior of the continent, capturing their own people and selling them to slave traders on the west coast of Africa. Black slavery was and is still a crime against humanity which occurred in the modern era of human history (15th - 19th C); hence it is not a lost page in ancient history. I contend that moral reparations for black slavery have not happened yet at large scale and are now due! Not only Europeans and Americans, but Africans must come forward to atone for black slavery.
D. Mayi, Seattle, USA

The industrialized (US and mostly European) states owe nothing to the people whose ancestors were slaves. It is ridiculous to claim that slave labour had built the riches of the modern economy---industrialisation and not cotton picking built up the modern economies. This though does not take anything away from the despicable practice of slavery
Yan Gindin, New York, USA

The world will not change its stance of slavery because greedy economic tycoons will always want cheap labour and a place to exercise their domineering propensity on the one hand and on the other, there are always people with slave-mentality who avail themselves to be lured for cheap sweets. Furthermore, even institutions entitled with high moral authority like the Church blessed slavery in the past.
Ngikangi Masalotta, Lesotho

Slavery still exists and that it is up to each of us to continue to put pressure on our government leaders, and on ourselves as individuals, to find ways to end this
Jason Wiles, Tennessee, USA
While remembering how slavery changed and upset the balance of the world, Let us not forget our brothers and sisters imprisoned in Chinese communist forced labour camps at this very minute. This system (Laogai) has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, Buddhists, Christians, etc., etc. for nothing more than believing in something that the communist party does not believe in. These people are forced to manufacture all sorts of goods. We need to keep in mind that slavery still exists and that it is up to each of us to continue to put pressure on our government leaders, and on ourselves as individuals, to find ways to end this absolute desecration of basic human liberties.
Jason Wiles, Tennessee, USA

I think it is historically inaccurate to claim that the current standards of living in the US are due to slavery. The Industrial Revolution occurred mainly in the North, which was slave free, while the South was agrarian and rather undeveloped. Capitalism helped abolish slavery just as it helped to abolish feudalism in Europe.
Jeff Lewis, Madison, WI

Slavery never ends, it just evolves. It changes its look and feel, but the essence of bondage remains. The question "How did slavery change the world" is more accurately presented as "How does slavery shape the world."
Jay, Los Angeles, USA

I don't see how you can talk about the legacy of slavery without talking about the ongoing effects of colonialism. Just talking about slavery threatens to confuse issues such as the entrapment of women and children that is ongoing, with the wholesale appropriation of the continent of Africa by European nations.
Arthur Z, Los Angeles, USA

Most discussions on slavery confine themselves to politically correct bashing of the white man for his role in this inhuman activity. What is not so often mentioned is the fact that the white traders in West Africa never ventured inland but merely bought and shipped out slaves who were trafficked to them by Africans. Even more rarely mentioned is the fact that Arabs have been responsible, for just as much slaving as the white man. The main difference is that they haven't yet stopped. It's a pity the bleeding heart liberals don't dare go after them.
David, Leeds, UK

No-one in this country is in real slavery
John R Smith, UK

No-one in this country is in real slavery; in fear of their life if they disobey; bought and sold at the whim of their master; punished in any way and at any time; overworked until they died. A real slave from any period in history would think they were in the lap of luxury to have the work and living conditions these correspondents are criticising.
John R Smith, UK

Slavery was abhorrent, more Africans died in capture and transportation, the greatest genocide in history. If it's appropriate to talk about the Jewish holocaust then we should talk about the African holocaust. It is time to come out of the closet, and campaign for those responsible to admit their mistakes. Modern forms of slavery in some parts of Africa, should also be condemned in the same way.
Zaya Yeebo, Kongo, Ghana

18th and 19th century slavery was the bedrock of the American and therefore the world economy. The West invested amongst themselves and improved their world. However, they now continually ignore the continent that was battered by their actions.
Joseph, London, UK

It is quite ludicrous and shows a crass insensitivity and lack of historical perspective for some people on here to compare slavery to working to pay taxes or people being paid to work. A low wage by Western standards does not equate to a low wage by local standards and most certainly does not equate with slavery.
John, Glasgow, UK

The best way to tackle these abuses is to shine a very bright light on them
David, London, UK
Slavery exists in Britain today. I have read a report that said 8,000 trafficked women are working as prostitutes in London. Children and domestic servants are kept in conditions of slavery as well. The best way to tackle these abuses is to shine a very bright light on them, and for us to support those organisations that do so.
David, London, UK

Slavery has helped the United States to become the superpower it is today. The massive use of slave labour by the United States helped to jump start its economy eventually leading to US dominance in the world, culturally and economically. As unethical and immoral slavery was, the United States owes a great debt to those Africans that were forced from their homes.
John Kambites, Ottawa, Canada

The horrifying thing is that slavery is still going on in parts of Africa and the Middle East, but the perpetrators are Muslim, and therefore immune from criticism by the UN.
Hannah, London

Before all of the self righteous revisionist liberals get astride their high horses as they attack all things western and Christian let us remind ourselves that it was a Christian - William Wilberforce, that fought to get slavery abolished in the British colonies.
Dave, Reading, Berks

The abolishment of slavery (of the sort we are discussing here) is Britain's greatest legacy to the world
Jake, UK

The abolishment of slavery (of the sort we are discussing here) is Britain's greatest legacy to the world. Until then the lineage of slavery ran out from pre-history. We should not all rest on our laurels however and should look into addressing modern slavery - corporate serfdom.
Jake, UK

Brazil was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery (in 1888), but the government is still trying to crack down on slave-labour schemes that lure workers to out-of-the-way farms and either force them to work for free or keep them perpetually in debt.
Sabrina Gledhill, Salvador, Brazil

I would think that all countries have at some time or other been visited by slavers. Slavery still exists today in the Arab world and parts of Asia. As others have pointed out, it created the diverse world that we have today.
John Atkins, Bridgwater, England

Slavery destroyed the teachings of the people that 'all men are equal' and ' though shalt love thy neighbour'. Slavery brought about by so called Christian countries never treated slaves as equal persons neither did many of the slave trades show respect for slaves.
Leslie Jarrett, Slough, Berkshire

How can anyone seriously compare taxation to slavery? Slaves have short, miserable lives with zero rights, whereas tax complainers generally enjoy a decadent lifestyle, spoilt only by the sound of their own whining about not being able to afford that second holiday or new car. I'd remain anonymous too if I uttered such drivel.
Johnny W, Hull, UK

Let go the old and embrace the new. Let us stop dragging this baggage of slavery around. Growth will never come if we continue to be prisoners of the past. We cannot continue to collect our debts from other people. Let us shake off the past and move on. It is enough of this slavery talk.
Henry Williams, Sierra Leone/New York

Wouldn't a better day to mark slavery be the day the Act was passed in Parliament legislating against it?
Chris, UK

Wouldn't a better day to mark slavery be the day the Act was passed in Parliament legislating against it? Surely it's from that moment that slavery was doomed?
Chris, UK

Oh, the irony of a commemoration in Paris! By way of a trade embargo supported by Spain and the US, France obtained a promise of vast reparations from Haiti which took over 100 years to pay and contributed greatly to its continuing poverty. Of course France has no intention of returning any part of these reparations.
Ben Hutchings, Cambridge, UK

In the 18th and 19th century people in Africa were forced in to slavery in Europe and the Americas. In the 20th and 21st century people from Africa are entering Europe by all means to engage in forced labour in those places. Slavery appears to be a permanent feature of humanity.
Oyinkro Olobio, Port Harcourt, Nigeria

The media in conjunction with large corporations subordinate the minds of millions in the US...creating the illusion of freedom. There are still shackles around so many ankles in America.
Justin Howard, Detroit, MI

Human greed will ensure slavery of some form or the other. Compassion as an ingrained culture is a long way off.
Vinod Dawda, Coventry, UK

In the 18th & 19th centuries it made America economically viable. Nowadays it's making China economically viable.
Stuart W, London, UK

The world is a long, long way off from liberation from slavery. Changing the name of something from slavery to words such as "unemployment", and "wage labour", does not change the facts. Enslavement to poverty is among the worst type of slavery.
John Holmes, Canada

We still are forced to work two days a week to support our masters in the civil service
Mark K, London, UK

We still are forced to work two days a week to support our masters in the civil service. We get stress, long hours and no pension at the end of it. They get a job for life, fantastic conditions and a gold plated pension scheme. Time to free Britain's 'tax slaves'.
Mark K, London, UK

How did slavery change the world? It gave us (in the western world) Blues and Jazz music as well as other cultural interchanges in art etc. Blues music is the basis of the majority of popular music written in the West since the mid 1950's onwards. Hence most popular music would not have been written, if slavery had not happened.
John Davies, Crowthorne, UK

We are all better served trying to ensure true equality today rather than dwelling on past atrocities
Lorraine, St Albans, UK

Judging by the constant campaigns for apologies and compensation the descendants of nineteenth century slaves still believe they are disadvantaged in their adopted societies. Blaming slavery, however, seems counterproductive. We are all better served trying to ensure true equality today rather than dwelling on past atrocities.
Lorraine, St Albans, UK

The slave trade has been rife all over the world for as long as mankind has existed, it was not created by Europeans. The Europeans profited from the African trade for a number of years but did not create it, and ultimately were responsible for ending the trade.
Chris, Bradford, UK

I bet the shirts on everybody's backs reading this page were made by slaves in the Far East
Alastair, Perth, Scotland

I bet the shirts on everybody's backs reading this page were made by slaves in the Far East. We are no better today than we were then. Please do not excuse it by claiming that they are better off because of the pennies they get, because this was the same excuse used by the wealthy in the past. Our food and clothing is now reliant on slaves. Why else do you think you can buy supermarket jeans for £4.00?
Alastair, Perth, Scotland

To Alastair, Scotland: Liverpool's Goree Piazza (named after the Senegalese island) is a symbol of a shameful past, but as you point out, the evil of slavery is still accepted in modern societies simply because it occurs in far away places and keeps the price of goods at a low level. It's no use blaming the politicians because we all like low prices. That's why it's important that the UN makes people aware of present day slavery.
John Ormerod, Oslo, Norway

Whilst it should most definitely be acknowledged that the white world was involved in large scale slavery, it should also be shown that Arabs and Africans are just as "guilty" and just as responsible for the history, effects and continuance of slavery. Too many people simply blame the Whiteman for all of slavery's ills.
John, England

Without slavery the world would be a very different place. The USA would be virtually all white or Latino with no significant black populations. Great politicians like Martin Luther King or sportsmen like Michael Jordan would not have lived. There would have been no civil law, so Abraham Lincoln would have been a minor president who wouldn't have been shot. Caribbean culture would be Mayan rather than African in origin. No Brian Lara, no Bob Marley. Jamaica would be much more like Cuba.
Peter, Nottingham, UK

The enforced slavery of women in many parts of the world shows no signs of stopping
Rebecca, UK

The enforced slavery of women has existed for 1,000s of years and in many parts of the world shows no signs of stopping. We should beware rising fundamentalism as it is the biggest risk to the freedom of 50% of the world's population.
Rebecca, UK

In press coverage of this event, there seems to be no mention of William Wilberforce of Hull who was the prime mover in the abolishment of slavery.
Edward, Stone, UK

The San Domingo revolt led to the mass slaughter of all those in Haiti who had a detectable trace of white blood, men, woman, children and babies. Haiti has been in a state of perpetual anarchy ever since. Do we really want to commemorate this? Slavery still exists in Africa. Instead of wasting resources on a special day why not spend it on completely eliminating slavery?
Terry Jones, Grays, UK

People quickly point fingers at England for the slave trade but they easily forget we also enforced its ban.
Robert Sutton, Halifax, England

Taxes are a modern form of slavery - we have to work for nearly half the year for the government - and more if indirect taxes are taken into account...
Anon, London, UK

I have recently just come back from a holiday in Senegal and I visited Goree Island while I was there. The mood while visiting the prison was sombre indeed, especially seeing where people were forced to squat in cramped conditions before being offloaded onto boats.
Dave Bishton, Sheffield, UK

It still amazes me that people thought the restriction of rights based on skin colour was acceptable
Matt, Amsterdam (ex UK)

It still amazes me that people thought the restriction of rights based on skin colour was acceptable. What amazes me further is that, at the beginning of the 21st century we still haven't learned our lesson: gay marriage declared illegal, pay inequality for women, arrest and detention of Muslims with no charge. All of these will, one day, seem as preposterous as the idea of slavery.
Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex UK)

It made the banks as powerful as they are now. Slavery is currently making the multi-nationals very rich...
Rico, Sheffield, England

Slavery has happened for centuries. For example white slaves from the north were particularly favoured in Rome and ancient Greece. Then we had the Normans and the concept of serfdom (whose mentality continues today in the major corporations). The Arabs were great slave traders and many African tribes, who were constantly at war benefited greatly from the slave trade.
Tony, Welling, Kent

Slavery, of course, existed for many centuries, if not millennia, before the advent of the trade in African people for that purpose. I have never quite been sure whether black slavery was a result of existing prejudice against black people, or whether it gave rise to it.
David Hazel, Fareham, UK




SEE ALSO:
Nigeria's 'respectable' slave trade
17 Apr 04  |  From Our Own Correspondent
Afghan child slavery probe
25 Sep 03  |  South Asia


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