"The Development of US Anti-slavery Law: A Historical Review"

Michigan Law Authors
Publish Date
2021
Publication
The Historical Roots of Human Trafficking
Publication Type
Book Chapter
Abstract

The United Nations “Palermo Protocol” and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 were not the beginning of legal responses to slavery and trafficking, but part of a long arc of anti-slavery legislation in the USA. Understanding the centuries-long continuity and interconnected nature of US abolitionism—predating the founding of the nation—is necessary to accurately evaluate present-day policies, activism, and efforts. The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution ended legally sanctioned chattel slavery in the country and provided tools to address continuing forms of exploitation; it remains the cornerstone of US anti-slavery policy. The Amendment’s influence and legal precedents have been integrated into global anti-trafficking policy. The modern anti-trafficking movement is an at times uneasy amalgam of the civil rights approach of the Thirteenth Amendment and the commerce and morality-based approach of another set of laws that focused on cross-border movement for prostitution. Rivalries and competition among anti-trafficking actors often are arranged across this fissure; taking a longue durée historical approach to US abolitionism can mitigate such friction and galvanize meaningful steps forward in the ultimate aim of ending slavery in all of its manifestations.

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