20 Ideas About Slavery Everyone Ought to Know: From Chattel Slavery to the Third Slavery

Endorsed by the Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA)

Friday, April 16, 2021, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Business and Economy; Labor and Working-Class; Slavery


Among American historians, it is generally agreed that the historical study of chattel slavery covered about 250 years: from 1619 to 1865 in the United States and to 1888 in Brazil and the Americas. Yet slavery has not disappeared. Globally, an estimated 27–40 million persons are victims of involuntary servitude. What if these contemporary forms of human labor exploitation constitute a “Third Slavery”? Our roundtable seeks to generate a discussion about how historical knowledge might contribute solutions to the problems of contemporary expressions of human slavery and offer new pathways to democracy and freedom.

Session Participants

Chair and Commentator: Daina Ramey Berry, University of Texas at Austin
Daina Ramey Berry is the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. She completed her BA, MA and PhD in African American Studies and U.S. History at UCLA. Dr. Berry is a specialist on the history of gender and slavery in the United States and Black women’s history. She is the award-winning author and editor of five books and several scholarly articles. Her recent book, The Price for their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to the Grave, in the Building of a Nation (Beacon, 2017) has been awarded three book awards including the 2018 Hamilton Book Prize from the University Coop for the best book among UT Austin faculty; the 2018 Best Book Prize from the Society for the History of the Early American Republic (SHEAR); and the Phyllis Wheatley Award for Scholarly Research from the Sons and Daughters of the US Middle Passage. Berry’s book is also a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Institute at Yale University for the most outstanding non-non-fiction book in English on the subject of slavery, abolition or antislavery movements.

Dr. Berry has appeared on several syndicated radio and television shows including: “Who Do You Think You Are?” (NBC/TLC); CNN; C-SPAN; National Geographic Explorer and NPR. In 2016, she served at a historical consultant and technical advisor for the remake of ROOTS by Alex Haley (HISTORY/ A+E).

Dr. Berry has received prestigious fellowships for her research from the National Endowment for the Humanities; the American Council of Learned Societies; the American Association of University Women and the Ford Foundation. She is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. Her work has been, featured in The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post, and Huffington Post.

Professor Berry is currently finishing a co-authored book, A Black Women's History of the United States (Beacon Press, 2020), creating a resource on slavery for K-12 educators, and working with EnLight Productions on a digital media platform for women’s history called Making History Hers.

Chair: Earl Lewis, University of Michigan
Noted social historian, award-winning author, and educational leader, Earl Lewis, is the founding director of the University of Michigan Center for Social Solutions. Also a professor of history and Afroamerican and African Studies, Lewis is president emeritus of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2013-18), one of the premier philanthropies supporting the arts, humanities, and higher education. At Michigan, Lewis and colleagues in the Center will address four core areas of social concern: diversity and race, slavery and its aftermath, water and security, and the dignity of labor in an automated world. His diversity work will continue to showcase the Our Compelling Interests book series, published in partnership with Princeton University Press, which investigates how diversity pairs with democracy to enhance the likelihood of shared prosperity. Prior to returning to Michigan and before leading the Mellon Foundation, he served as the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Emory University as well as the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of history and African American Studies (2004-2012). Lewis was previously on the faculty at the University of Michigan (1989-2004) and the University of California at Berkeley (1984-1989). In addition to professorial roles and titles (Robin D.G. Kelley and Elsa Barkley Brown Collegiate Professor), he served Michigan as Vice Provost and Dean of the Rackham School of Graduate Studies (1998-2004).

As a scholar and leader in higher education and philanthropy, he has examined and addressed critical questions for our society including the role of race in American history, diversity, equity and inclusion, graduate education, humanities scholarship, and universities and their larger communities. A frequent lecturer, he has authored or edited nine books, scores of essays, articles and comments, and along with Robin Kelley served as general editor of the eleven-volume Young Oxford History of African Americans. He currently partners with Nancy Cantor in editing the Our Compelling Interests book series. A member of numerous boards of directors or trustees, he was an Obama administration appointee to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, and is currently president of the Organization of American Historians.

The Tidewater, Virginia native is an alum of Concordia College-Moorhead, where he graduated with honors in history and psychology (1978), and the University of Minnesota (PhD, history, 1984), which honored him most recently with the College of Liberal Arts Outstanding Alumni Award (2018). Lewis is the recipient of several honorary degrees, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2008).

Panelist: David W. Blight, Yale
David W. Blight is a teacher, scholar and public historian. At Yale University he is Sterling Professor of History, joining that faculty in January, 2003. As of June, 2004, he is Director, succeeding David Brion Davis, of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. In his capacity as director of the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale, Blight organizes conferences, working groups, lectures, the administering of the annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize, and many public outreach programs regarding the history of slavery and its abolition. He previously taught at Amherst College for thirteen years. In 2013-14 he was the William Pitt Professor of American History at Cambridge University, UK, and in 2010-11, Blight was the Rogers Distinguished Fellow in 19th century American History at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. During the 2006-07 academic year he was a fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars, New York Public Library.

In October of 2018, Simon and Schuster published his new biography of Frederick Douglass, entitled, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, which garnered nine book awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Bancroft Prize, and the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize. The Douglass book has been optioned by Higher Ground Productions and Netflix for a projected feature film. Blight works in many capacities in the world of public history, including on boards of museums and historical societies, and as a member of a small team of advisors to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum team of curators.

Blight’s newest books include annotated editions, with introductory essay, of Frederick Douglass’s second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom (Yale Univ. Press, 2013), Robert Penn Warren’s Who Speaks for the Negro, (Yale Univ. Press, 2014), and the monograph, American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era (Harvard University Press, published August 2011), which received the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf Award for best book in non-fiction on racism and human diversity. American Oracle is an intellectual history of Civil War memory, rooted in the work of Robert Penn Warren, Bruce Catton, Edmund Wilson, and James Baldwin. Blight is also the author of A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including their Narratives of Emancipation, (Harcourt, 2007, paperback in 2009).

Blight is also the author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Harvard University Press, 2001), which received eight book awards, including the Bancroft Prize, the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize as well as four awards from the Organization of American Historians, including the Merle Curti prizes for both intellectual and social history. Other published works include a book of essays, Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002); and Frederick Douglass's Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee (LSU Press, 1989).

Blight has a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and did his undergraduate degree at Michigan State University.

Panelist: Luis C.deBaca, Yale University
Ambassador (ret.) Luis C.deBaca is a Senior Fellow in Modern Slavery at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University, and a Visiting Lecturer in Law at the Yale School, where he teaches the history of Human Trafficking, Modern Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment. He currently advises governments, businesses, and civic organizations on transparency in supply chains and enforcement. As head of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons during the Obama Administration, he coordinated activities in the global fight against contemporary slavery. Previously, in the Civil Rights Division, C.deBaca updated post-Civil War statutes and the 13th Amendment to develop a “victim centered approach” to modern slavery and human trafficking.

Panelist: Bridgette Carr, University of Michigan Law School
Professor Bridgette Carr, '02, is the associate dean for strategic initiatives at Michigan Law and a faculty affiliate at the Center for Positive Organizations at U-M's Ross School of Business. She has dedicated her career to advocating for the rights of human trafficking victims and advancing comprehensive domestic and international anti-trafficking policies. Her work focuses on driving paradigm shifts in the way human trafficking victimization is perceived and addressed, and helping reintegrate victims by developing legal solutions that address the complex issues of coercion and victimization around compelled service and its aftermath.

As the founding director of the University of Michigan Law School's Human Trafficking Clinic, the first clinical law program solely devoted to addressing this issue comprehensively, Professor Carr, her colleagues, and a new generation of trainees have provided free legal services to victims since 2009, supporting the wide-ranging needs of men, women, and children, both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens, who have been victimized by a range of trafficking crimes. Using the U-M clinic as a model, Professor Carr is working with university partners around the world to develop similar programs to combat human trafficking and train law students, and has helped establish university law clinics in Mexico, Ethiopia, and Brazil to broaden the network of legal experts who can address the issues of compelled service that transcend international borders. She is the lead author of the first casebook on human trafficking law and policy, which examines the cross-section of criminal justice, civil and human rights, immigration, and international law that frames these issues.

Professor Carr regularly provides human trafficking training to law enforcement, government officials, and health care providers, as well as consultations to state and national authorities on the issue of human trafficking. She is a member of the Michigan Human Trafficking Taskforce, a collaborative effort to identify and rescue victims, prosecute offenders, restore victims, and educate people in Michigan about human trafficking, in both sexual and labor exploitation. In 2013, she was appointed to Michigan's first Commission on Human Trafficking by Attorney General Bill Schuette. She also has served as a consultant to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the UN agency focused on criminal justice for victims of human trafficking and migrant smuggling. She has appeared as an expert on human trafficking on The Today Show, MSBNC, and National Public Radio, and has been quoted in The New York Times and many other news outlets. Professor Carr received her BA, cum laude, from the University of Notre Dame and earned her JD, cum laude, from Michigan Law. During law school, she was a Michigan refugee and asylum law fellow with Amnesty International. Prior to joining the Law School faculty, she was an associate clinical professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, where she led the Immigrant Rights Project. In 2008, she was awarded a Marshall Memorial Fellowship to study human trafficking issues in Europe.

Panelist: Genevieve LeBaron, University of Sheffield
Genevieve LeBaron is Professor of Politics and Director of Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield.

She is an internationally renowned expert on modern slavery, known for her research on the business dynamics of modern slavery in global supply chains. She advises leading national governments and international organisations combatting forced labour, has held ten research grants to investigate forced labour in the contemporary global economy (totalling over USD $3 million), and has won several awards for her role in pioneering a rigorous and comparable empirical evidence base on forced labour in the contemporary world, including the British Academy's Rising Star Award and UK Economic and Social Research Council's Future Research Leader Fellowship. She has been included in the 2018 UK Top 100 Corporate Modern Slavery Influencers and the 2017 global Top 100 Human Trafficking & Slavery Influence Leaders lists, alongside world leaders from the UK and US governments and industry leaders from companies like Apple and Ford.

She is the author of Combatting Modern Slavery: Why Labour Governance is Failing and What We Can Do About It (Cambridge: Polity, 2020) and Prison Labor, Capitalism, and the American State (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2021) and editor of Researching Forced Labour in the Global Economy: Methodological Challenges and Advances (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) and co-editor of Fighting Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking: From Past to Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021, with David Blight and Jessica Pliley). She is the author of over twenty peer-reviewed journal articles.

She has held visiting fellowships at Yale University, Sciences Po Paris, University of California Berkeley, and Osgoode Hall Law School, amongst other Universities. Her research is profiled widely in the media, including recent coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, The Independent, The Guardian, and The Daily Mail.

Panelist: James Alexander Robinson, Metropolitan State University
James Alexander Robinson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies with emphasis in Black Studies at the Metropolitan State University, and curator of the Third Slavery archive for the Center for Social Solutions.

Dr. Robinson is an interdisciplinary trained scholar of Black Studies, additionally with a research specialization in the history of Black railroad dining car cooks and waiters, their unions, communities and families. James earned the PhD in Black Studies (Interdisciplinary Studies Program) and M.A. in History from the University of Iowa; did graduate studies in Folklore at the University of California at Berkeley; and received the B.A. in Anthropology from Macalester College. Dr. Robinson’s dissertation “Black Studies Definitions: An Archive, A Year of Promise, and A Conceptual Approach” argues for a resource knowledge-based conceptual definition of this intellectual discipline.

Most recently Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Center for Social Solutions at the University of Michigan and Digital Research Associate with the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio at University of Iowa. Outside of academe, Mr. Robinson curated “Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture” for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and coordinated research for "The Will to Adorn: African American Diversity, Style, and Identity" for the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution.