4.17 – Slavery in Africa/Slave Redemption

In the first half of today’s class, we will discuss slavery in Mauritania. I will also lecture briefly on slavery in other parts of Africa. In the second half of class, we will discuss the practice of ‘slave redemption’ and your views on the wisdom of its use as an antislavery strategy.

Readings – Slavery in Mauritania

Discussion questions

CNN, “Mauritania: Slavery’s Last Stronghold”
Disposable People, 81-120
U.S. Department of State, 2016 TIP report, Mauritania

Discussion questions

What accounts for the continuing prevalence of slavery in Mauritania? What are slaves forced to do, and how do their slave masters control them?

What has the government in Mauritania done to help perpetuate slavery in the country?

What have NGOs done to help undermine slavery in Mauritania? How effective have those efforts been?

Readings – Slave Redemption

Jok Madut Jok, War and Slavery in Sudan, p. 173-179 (ebook available through Curry Library)

Introduction to Buying Freedom, edited by Kwame Anthony Appiah

An economic analysis of slave redemption

Associated Press, “Critics: William Jewell Students’ Plan to Free Slaves Feeds Problem” (April 2002)

John Eibner, “My Career Redeeming Slaves”

Richard Miniter, The Atlantic, “The False Promise of Slave Redemption” (July 1999)

Read additional articles, as necessary, in order to write a well-supported and well-argued essay on slave redemption. I encourage you to conduct additional research on your own.

Gospel Herald, “Modern Day Schindler Saves Christian and Yazidi Female Sex Slaves from ISIS”

Southwestern College – Policy Debate: Do slave redemption programs reduce the problem of slavery?

Human Rights Watch, “Slave Redemption in Sudan”

Essay assignment

Ethical Reasoning Essay – April 17 – 7.5% of final grade

One of the most significant aims of this course is to encourage you to consider the ethical implications of actions undertaken by individuals, groups, societies, nations, and humanity as a whole. This assignment asks you to apply ethical reasoning to one of the most controversial anti-slavery strategies we have examined: slave redemption, or, in other words, buying slaves from slave-masters with the intent of freeing those slaves.

I want you to answer this central question: Do you think that slave redemption is a wise and ethically correct anti-slavery strategy?

There are many present-day contexts in which this question is relevant. Imagine, for example, that you are the leader of an anti-slavery NGO in Sudan. The families of those who have been enslaved approach your organization and ask you to use your money to buy their loved ones out of slavery. What would you do? Or, for another example, consider reports that have recently emerged from Iraq concerning anti-slavery groups and individuals who are engaged in redeeming slaves from ISIS.

If you had the power to decide, would you use your organization’s (or your) money to purchase the freedom of slaves from their owners? If yes, what ethical principles would you cite to defend your position? If no, what ethical principles would you cite to defend your position? Please assess the strengths and weaknesses of both the pro- and anti- side of the debate as well explain the ethical reasoning behind why you have chosen to adopt a certain position.

Write at least three full pages (double-spaced) answering the essay prompt. You may write more, if you wish. Your essay will, as with the research essays, be judged in part on the quality of your writing. (1/3 of a grade reduction for more than 3 writing errors on a page, ensure proper paragraph organization, include your thesis in the introductory paragraph, etc.)

Email me a copy of your essay by class-time on April 17.


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