Over the past several years, student demand for courses, research opportunities, and internships in the realm of human rights and modern-day slavery has reached a tipping point, for several reasons. First, social media have made contemporary slavery a familiar issue. MTV’s Exit Campaign (http://mtvexit.org), for instance, has informed at least 20 million people about the subject since the campaign’s launch in 2004. Second, Hollywood has taken notice. With films like 2009’s Taken, starring Liam Neeson as a father who single-handedly (even if unrealistically) rescues his daughter from the clutches of sex traffickers in Europe, students know trafficking is a moral evil that should be fought. Third, policymakers have transcended partisan politics and embraced legislation to fight modern-day slavery. In February 2013, for instance, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously in support of an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act to help child victims of sex trafficking. President Obama gave a major speech on modern-day slavery in 2012 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/ endtrafficking). Accordingly, a growing number of incoming college freshmen not only want to major (or concentrate) in the study of human rights, but also want to spend part of their careers tackling human-rights abuses, including contemporary slavery. In the past two years, I have compiled a teaching and research portfolio on modern-day slavery using community-based learning. Here I highlight some lessons learned and suggest next steps to deepen this teaching and research agenda, particularly for institutions such as mine, a small liberal arts college in the American South. This is especially appropriate given the recent 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2014

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Copyright © 2014, Council on Undergraduate Research. This article first appeared in Current Undergraduate Research Quarterly: 34:3 (2014), 17-18.

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