On January 1, 2013, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was a decidedly fatal blow against the institution of chattel slavery in the United States. This executive order symbolically freed African Americans from slavery in rebelling regions and states forever. Certainly, the Emancipation Proclamation set a ball in motion that eventually led to the 15th amendment in 1865. And with the passage of that legislation, people expected that the United States never again would see any of its residents or citizens subjected to slavery or servitude in any form. We were wrong: slavery never quite disappeared. It evolved and went underground, where it has been growing at record numbers, subjecting millions to profoundly repressive sexual and labor exploitation —even while the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation has centered the discourse on freedom.
One of the problems the conference organizers have recognized is that the dialogue about contemporary slavery makes no reference to historical chattel slavery. Consequently, contemporary slavery seems to have appeared out of nowhere and without historical precedent. Likewise, the discourse about chattel slavery posits that we solved that great American problem—that slavery ended in 1865. Many scholars do not recognize that some of the same economic, racist, and gendered reasons that kept African Americans enslaved before the Civil War are making it a profitable business today. While there are many differences between the two periods of American slavery—pre and post 1865---there are some lessons that each can offer the other.
The conference’s purpose is to develop historically grounded bridges between scholars, teachers, and activists by discovering what our past struggles to abolish slavery in the United States can teach us about identifying and opposing slavery today. In this vein, the Crossing Boundaries conference aims to bring together scholars, educators abolitionists, and activists to launch meaningful dialogues about current antislavery efforts in the United States. This conference aims to provide the critical bridge between scholarship and activism, the past and present, academic history and public history, and across disciplines. Specifically, we are trying to use the history of slavery and abolitionism in the United States to inform the current abolitionism struggle. Very few conferences aim to foster dialogue and problem-solving discussions between a vast array of public voices and scholars about the scourge of contemporary slavery and why it has defied the course of history and persisted on American soil.
In this vein, the "Crossing Boundaries, Making Connections" conference aims to bring together scholars, educators, abolitionists, and activists to launch meaningful dialogues about current antislavery efforts in the United States. This conference aims to provide the critical bridge between scholarship and activism, the past and present, and across disciplines. Specifically, we are trying to use the history of slavery and abolitionism in the United States to inform the current abolitionism struggle.
Nikki Taylor, PhD
Associate Professor of History
University of Cincinnati
Department of History Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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