Monday, January 9, 2012

Products of Slavery: Teaching the Tough Lesson

Source: Anti-Slavery
Many students in upper elementary and middle schools associate slavery with the nineteenth-century era of American history when African Americans were forced to work on southern plantation fields. Few know that modern slavery is on the rise at an alarming rate. When we tell them that it is a 32-billion-dollar-plus industry and the average price to purchase a human for slave labor is about $90, they are shocked. In their young minds, it is difficult to grasp the gravity of the situation. To help them visualize the enormity of the problem, we use the interactive Products of Slavery map from the Anti-Slavery organization. Its motto is “today’s fight for tomorrow’s freedom.”

Source: Products of Slavery

The Products of Slavery map shows where products are made by forced or child labor in the top 25 countries around the world. The statistics can be separated to see the distinction between which group provides the most slave labor by clicking the boxes at the top. The map adjusts to reflect the numbers, and the students quickly learn that children make up the majority of slave labor today.
Source: Products of Slavery

The clarity and ease of use make it ideal for working with younger students. With the focus, too, on products, it minimizes the topic to items that are age-appropriate, leaving out the harsher reality of sex trafficking of women and children. The countries and the number of products they produce through slave labor pop up by clicking on the yellow bubbles on the map. Students can then pick from this group to find more detailed information. A new screen opens with a map showing other places this product is produced through slave labor, as well as documented facts, quotes, and links to other resources. The students are touched by the words of so many young children who describe the hardships they face. It is a moving experience for them.

Source: Products of Slavery
Talking to students about modern slavery and helping them visualize the places in the world where it occurs should be part of curricular learning in our schools nationwide. While the United States does not have slave labor, that does not mean Americans do not use products that come from other places or criminally use enslaved help. Last December, the Huffington Post published an article on human slavery with a pointed reminder:
“It's uncomfortable to think of ourselves as employing slaves, but according to the Slavery Footprint, almost all of us do. As we start 2012, the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, it's a good way to educate ourselves and then take action to end slavery once and for all.”
While this seems trite in light of the subject matter, teachers can utilize the Products of Slavery website to integrate lessons on geography. The Anti-Slavery organization also has a poster that can be downloaded for classroom use. Additionally, math lessons could be developed for students with this information.

Please see our earlier post, Matchbox Kids, Not Toys - End Slavery, on this topic. For more information on prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships to monitor and combat the trafficking of human persons, visit the U.S. State Department’s website.

Source: Products of Slavery


  1. Products of Slavery is an eye-opening site, and would definitely make a great modern comparison point for any study of American slavery.

    Are there any good sites out there with similar maps depicting earlier instances of worldwide slavery, be it Roman, North and South American, etc.?

  2. That would make a good comparative lesson. We haven't found any visualizations of historic slavery as interactive as this one, but there are a few maps and resources that might be useful:

    Google Earth Slave Trade Interactive:

    The Abolition Of Slavery Interactive Map:

    The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database:

    A Map Of American Slavery:

    The Geography Of Slavery (see sidebar):

    Slavery Primary Source Maps:

    Mapping History:

    Time Maps - Atlantic Slave Trade (some for purchase):

    Slavery And The Making Of America:

    Comparative Slave Systems (scroll down):

  3. Thank you for taking the time to share these resources! The 2nd, 5th, and 7th sites on your list are especially cool.


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