The Thirteenth Amendment, intended as a terrible swift sword of Emancipation, has since been a means with which to confront slavery and its legacies in domestic and international settings alike, whether in Peonage prosecutions, at the Nuremburg Trials, through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in federal hate crimes legislation, or as manifested in modern anti-trafficking regimes. But it also has been an uncashed promissory note, a set of loopholes used to justify prison labor, and — especially post-Brown — a tool supplanted by its companion Reconstruction Amendments. We will examine modern anti-trafficking efforts by exploring the post-Emancipation law of slavery from the Antebellum period through the modern era.
We will center our inquiry through the voices of the enslaved, from Antebellum “slave narratives” to modern survivor accounts and leadership, as well as assessing governmental responses through primary historical research. We will interrogate changes and commonalities in abolitionist activism and government enforcement, such as: sugar boycotts of the early 1800 echoed in today’s solutions of Worker-led Social Responsibility, supply chain transparency, and end-user liability; modern practices in prisons and detention centers traceable to convict leasing schemes of the Jim Crow era; and how the Progressive Era bifurcation of statutory and enforcement regimes around labor and sex trafficking (and the attitudes it reveals about immigration, morality, femininity, and whiteness) plays out in current debates over the sex industry and technology policy. We will explore race, gender, indigeneity, anti-Blackness, citizenship, rule of law, worker’s rights, immigration, prisoners’ and detainees’ rights, victims’ rights, colonialism, globalization, and federalism.