Editor's note: David Abramowitz is Vice President, Policy & Government Relations for Humanity United and Director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a coalition of U.S.-based human rights organizations working to end modern slavery and human trafficking in the United States and around the world. ATEST recently issued “The Path to Freedom,” a road map for the second-term Obama Administration to follow as it works to fulfill its commitment to eliminate modern slavery.
By David Abramowitz, Special for CNN
(CNN) - It’s been 150 years since President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamationdeclared in the midst of the U.S. Civil War that all slaves “shall be free.”
Today, the word “slavery” still conjures up horrifying images and stomach-churning thoughts about the most disgraceful days in U.S. history.
This shamefully evil chapter still cannot be fully explained, because no facts can possibly answer how humanity allowed it to happen, and why we didn’t stop it sooner.
Similar questions haunt the United States and countries around the world today – how has slavery evolved into a multi-billion dollar illicit global industry, overshadowed only by drugs?
Perhaps we turned a blind eye because modern slavery looks so different than it did in 1863, when it was largely in the open.
Modern-day slavery manifests itself in many new and nuanced forms, often described in the 21st century as forced labor or human trafficking. Or perhaps we turned a blind eye because we can’t conceive how slavery can persist in 2013.
Human trafficking is viewed worldwide as morally reprehensible, and slavery is illegal in every country.
As a result, modern slavery is underground and masked so well that we may not recognize it in our own communities. For example, construction workers, housekeepers, farm workers and too many others in low-paying industries are brought to the United States by labor brokers who promised a job, but enslaved them instead.
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