Slavery In America: 50 Years After ‘I Have A Dream’
Religion & Liberty Online

Slavery In America: 50 Years After ‘I Have A Dream’

Yesterday, as a nation, we spent time reflecting on the American landscape 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have A Dream” speech. In it, Dr. King decried that our nation – while abolishing slavery legally – still had a long way to go “until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.'”

We still have a long way to go.

According to the Polaris Project, there are hundreds of thousands of people trafficked in the United States every year. Some of them are U.S. citizens, moved state-to-state, others are brought into the country illegally and forced into either sexual or manual labor.

These “jobs” include:

  • Nannies
  • Maids/Housekeepers
  • Landscaping
  • Nail salons
  • Restaurants
  • Industrial cleaning
  • Construction
  • Hospitality
  • Peddling Rings/Sales Crews
  • Magazine sales crews
  • Flowers/Candy sales crews
  • Agricultural
  • Factory settings (i.e. garments; food processing)
  • Other large factory work environments (i.e. industrial welding)

Beyond this, there is large-scale sex trafficking, including prostitution, “massage” parlors, escort services, “gentlemen’s” clubs, and international marriage brokering. Sex trafficking tends to have the youngest victims, with the average age of a sexually trafficked person being 12- 14 years of age.

By some estimations, there are more people in bondage today than at any other time in history. A slave in the Southern United States 150 years ago would have cost (by today’s monetary standards) about $40 thousand; today, a trafficked person costs an average of $90.

What can be done? The Polaris Project offers a list of things to watch for when it comes to identifying human trafficking victims. We all need to be aware that trafficked persons have no one identifying feature: they are in large cities, small towns, rural areas. They come from every socio-economic background, can be any age, any race. The P0laris Project offers information packs that further describe myths about trafficking, what can be done in every community and help for trafficked persons.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”


Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.