Never Ending Slavery: A Look At Human Trafficking in America


The Problem

Human trafficking, and more specifically sex trafficking, has existed in the United States of America since the first shipment of slaves was brought over in 1619. Sex trafficking is still prevalent throughout current day society in America, 400 years after its historical counterpart was introduced. It rears its head in a multitude of industries, from sports to Hollywood. Many people assumed that with the abolition of slavery in 1865, the problem of involuntary servitude would end. However, hidden in the shadows, trafficking continued to exist, the only differences from slavery being that it was now being done illegally, and it wasn’t only suppressing black people. In the 21st century, many cases of human trafficking have popped up, with the victims mainly being minorities or immigrants.

My Interest

I first heard of the concept of human trafficking when I came across a youtube video about it. I ended up watching the video, and it was pretty interesting, but I didn’t try to learn more about the topic. However, when we were introduced to this research project, I saw human trafficking on the list of possible topics, and since I knew that I was at least somewhat interested in it, I picked it. After doing more research on the topic, I definitely want to more thoroughly understand it. It is extremely horrifying that a concept so similar to slavery could exist over 150 years after slavery was abolished. I feel I have a deeper connection to this topic than most; in India, human trafficking is a very widespread problem. It is estimated to affect 20 – 65 million people, mostly girls. I have a lot of family that still resides in India, and even though India is very modernized now, it is still a lot more dangerous for girls to travel alone in India than it is for boys.

To read more about why I was interested in this topic, click here.

Historical Overview of the Problem

Slavery was introduced to the United States in 1619, when a Dutch ship brought twenty African slaves to the British colony of  Jamestown, Virginia (Hellie). The type of slavery that was implemented in America was known as Chattel slavery; in this system of slavery, slaves were considered to be property, and slavery was passed down through multiple generations of families (Hellie). The majority of black slaves were transported by ships from Africa to America; this journey was referred to as the Middle Passage. The conditions aboard these ships were horrible for the slaves. Slaves were stacked upon one another, shoulder to shoulder, like mere items (Hellie). It is estimated that at least 2 million Africans, which 15-20% of the total slaves who were forced on the Middle Passage, passed away during the journey (Welch). Slavery continued to thrive in America unhindered for a long time, and it was the leading provider of labor backing America’s economy (Hellie). However, tensions began to arise, as people began to see that slavery was cruel and insensitive, and slave uprisings also started to grow in number. America was largely split down the middle, as the North wanted to abolish slavery, but the South wanted it to continue. Eventually, the North abolished slavery, but the south did not. Conflicts arose when the North and South continued to disagree on whether slavery would be legalized or not in new states admitted to the United States of America. This lead to the South seceding from the United States and forming the Confederacy (Hellie). The North declared war on the south, and this marked the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. Although awareness of human trafficking steadily grew, until 2000 not much was actually done. However, in 2000, Congress passed The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA). This law helps victims of human trafficking by giving them the ability to obtain a T-Visa. The victim normally has to help in the prosecution of traffickers, and in return, they receive a temporary visa to work and live in the United States. Many charities and organizations also arose in the early 2000s to help raise awareness against human trafficking. One of the most prominent charities to arise was ‘Free The Slaves,’ which is an organization whose goal is to raise awareness and to help victims escape the clutches of human trafficking.

To read more in-depth about the historical overview of this problem, click here.

Present-Day Overview of Problem

More than 49,000 total cases of human trafficking have been reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the last 10 years, and there is currently an upward trend in the number of human trafficking cases that Polaris learns about in the United States every year. For context, the hotline receives an average of 150,000 calls per day.

Recently, in 2017, the issue of sex trafficking manifested itself in the form of Nxivm, a company co-founded by Nancy Salzman and Keith Raniere. Nxivm was marketed as a self-help organization: an organization that provided people with the means to better themselves. Approximately 16,000 people were enrolled in courses offered by Nxivm (Meier). Underneath this harmless facade, however, ran a much uglier truth: Nxivm was a front for a sex-trafficking operation in the form of a sex cult. You can read more in-depth about Nxivm in my Current Problem Essay, here.

Despite the increased awareness from these organizations and laws, human trafficking continues to be the world’s fastest growing crime (Couch). According to Potocky, however, awareness of the problem has greatly grown, from 72% in 2008 to 90% in 2017 (Couch). Officials are increasingly understanding and learning how human traffickers run their trafficking rings. In conclusion, even though the awareness surrounding human trafficking has increased, there is still a lot of work to be done before the problem can start diminishing instead of growing.

Call To Action

Individual Solutions

Human trafficking may seem like a gargantuan force that no individual could stop, but there are many things that you can do to help. For one, donating to organizations like Polaris, no matter the amount, can make a difference. Polaris runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline, and they continuously pour work into a large human trafficking database. Any money they are donated, they put back into helping stop human trafficking; they accomplish this by helping victims and survivors, forming strategies to attack the perpetrators, and finally implementing these strategies through law enforcement. An individual can also learn to recognize the signs of a human trafficking victim, by going to a website like Polaris and looking at their guide, and then they can report the case straight to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Although sex trafficking was the problem that I focused on, labor trafficking is still a major issue. If you wish to help discourage the use of child labor, you can be an informed customer. This means that you’re knowledgeable of where the things you eat, or use, are grown or manufactured. The Department of Labor has a great list of companies or businesses that are suspected of using child labor that one can refer to.

You can Donate right now to help the fight against Human Trafficking:

Macro Solutions

On a larger scale, there are many major changes that need to be made. The government needs to put more money towards law enforcement that combats human trafficking. In 2017, the Department of Justice announced that they were putting more than $47 million into funding efforts to fight against human trafficking. However, this number needs to be much larger. The government needs to put much more money towards combating human trafficking if they want to make a larger difference. Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, $47 million simply won’t be enough to stop it. The government will need to at least double their current funding, as the law enforcement needs to be better equipped to the handle the serious threats that human traffickers pose, and the research centers could be a lot more efficient if they had better outreach due to a higher budget. Although many laws have been passed to tighten repercussions surrounding human trafficking, many more laws are needed to be effective. Currently, all states have laws against human trafficking, but many of these laws are full of holes and are easy to find loopholes in. Some of these state laws, only majorly address one of the two major human trafficking subsections: sex trafficking or labor trafficking. Also, not all states have implemented the Uniform Act, which guides state legislature in helping pass laws to fight against human trafficking. The only issue is, the government can pass a multitude of laws that make regulations surrounding human trafficking stricter, but they simply cannot hope to enforce all of them. This goes back to there being a need for higher funding.

To read more in depth about possible solutions, click here.

More Opportunities to Help!


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  1. April 26, 2019 by Maya.Edwards

    This is an amazing presentation and such an important cause. I was really interested in this because recently I read something on twitter that said that a lot of people on snapchat are receiving random friend requests (says that they added you by username) and that it is part of a sex trafficking crime.

  2. April 26, 2019 by Sean Cavalieri

    Great research! I hadn’t heard about the scope of this problem.

  3. April 26, 2019 by Cole.Wogan

    If slavery was legal, and human trafficking is illegal, how is human trafficking modern-day slavery?

  4. April 27, 2019 by Julie

    This topic is super interesting to me as well, and I agree with all the points you make about the urgency of this issue. I recently watched a documentary about human trafficking in the USA and it surprised me to see that part of the girls get involved in the trade do so willingly, or because they see no alternative choice. Would you say that part of the solution to human trafficking could be helping these girls before their situation becomes this tough, through foster parenting, charities for girls’ homes, etc?

  5. April 30, 2019 by Samira.Kethu

    Great job on your project! I really love that you brought awareness to such a heavy topic! Many people probably wouldn’t realize that this issue is so common in such a developed country. Amazing work!

  6. April 30, 2019 by Alexandra Polverari

    This topic is super interesting, and I am shocked to hear about the sex trafficking operation disguised as a self-help organization. I also really liked how you addressed that yes, this is an impossibly large issue, but we can still do things to help.

  7. April 30, 2019 by Kyong Pak

    Nice work, Yuvraj! I like your survey at the end that brings the reader’s attention to the global scope of the problem. A disturbing look into the extent of the problem of human trafficking in the U.S., and the “invisibility” of the crisis. Thank you for an interesting presentation!

  8. April 30, 2019 by Claire Irigoyen

    Your approach to the history and statistics that reflect the reality of this crime against humanity is compelling. It is hard to believe that there are more people enslaved today than when slavery was a legal economic commodity. This is clearly a difficult topic to raise awareness about given the victims (especially in sex-trafficking) are minor children (little girls/boys). I really appreciated your presentation as I believe this topic, although difficult, is important to raise awareness in hopes of making a difference in the future for survivors and potential victims.

  9. May 01, 2019 by Francis.Davis

    Hello Yuvraj. I really appreciated how you came towards this topic rooted in the historical manifestations of slavery. It’s important to acknowledge that the two are similar. Societally, it is also a somewhat taboo subject. I think that communities need to be more open about having conversations regarding human trafficking.

  10. May 03, 2019 by Susanna

    Hi! Despite how important and shocking it is that human trafficking still exists today, I feel as though not enough people know about the extent of the problem, and I’m glad you chose to present on this topic. I liked how concise your presentation is, while still being clearly well-researched. Thank you for bringing to notice this important issue.

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