Today, August 23, is UNESCO’s International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.
It marks the anniversary (this year it’s the 220th) of the slave uprising on the island of Santo Domingo, now divided into the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
August 23 is also the anniversary of Britain’s abolition of the slave trade in 1807.
Though legally abolished, slavery remains an unvanquished worldwide phenomenon. There may be as many as 27 million slaves today, in bondage under both ancient and modern systems. What’s behind slavery in the 21st century, according to anti-slavery advocate Kevin Bales, is a population explosion in the developing world combined with a failure of the rule of law, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without protection from human traffickers.
Today’s commemoration presents a good opportunity to pause and think of the millions – South Asians held in collateral debt bondage, for example – who still suffer under slavery, more than 200 years after Britain’s abolition of the trade and a century and a half after the American Civil War.