Wes Schiefer

Sweat Shops

Wes Schiefer

Slavery today has taken a unique form and found a flexible definition.  Often impoverished peoples are referred to as slaves of our cut throat economy.  These people work for little or no money and in horrid conditions, typically in an assembly or textile factory.  The most common known form of this type of modern slavery is the “sweat shop” which refers to the hot (non air conditioned) room that the workers work in.  Often times These factories are packed full of people (over the safe capacity) and the people working in the factories are required to work long hours without break for as little as a dollar a week.


This form of slavery is frowned on and many non profit and charity organizations like the WHO (world health organization) and members of NATO work hard to shut down or stop this kind of slavery around the world.  A difficult reality of sweat shops and low cost labor is the simple fact that often times the people of the areas that are working in these conditions can not do any better than working in a sweat shop.  Their living conditions are so dire to begin with a low wage and long hours is an improvement over their previous lives.  This is contrary to what activists constantly tout, which is equal rights and freedoms for all.

The simple truth is many of these people do not live in the same world as us Americans, and although equal rights sounds good in theory, it is not practical or even possible in many of these remote and impoverished areas.  In fact, in a few areas in Africa, when groups have come in and shut down sweat shops, the people were left with nothing.  Their living conditions worsened even more which led to increase in murder, birth defects from malnutrition and starvation.  So while many see the sweat shop as an evil in the world, in many cases it is a necessary evil.


Wes Schiefer

Prostitution is illegal in America, except for the Bunny Ranch in Nevada and the questionable pornography business.  The US keeps a fairly tight net on any prostitution although California has the highest concentration of underground prostitution and human trafficking than any other sate, so despite our best efforts forced prostitution does exist within our borders.

Internationally, prostitution is LEGAL in many places, or it is technically illegal but ignored, like in Thailand and Vietnam.   Many of these girls, and sometimes boys are brought up in to this lifestyle regardless of weather they want to be a part of it or not.  The people, often children, are used like rental cars, being driven around by whoever is willing to pay.  This is a modern form of slavery.


The individuals that are stuck in this life are also sometimes people that have been kidnapped.  They are taken away from their homes (much like early Africans, being taken to the Americas) and relocated to different countries or areas of their country.  The now slaves are then forced to do things (of a sexual nature) against their will.  Often the kidnappers use illegal drugs to control their prey.  Keeping the captures drugged up reduces their likely hood to fight, argue or escape.  Drugs also become an effective way to control the “slaves” of prostitution, by creating an addiction to drugs that compel the poor people to have a chemical need to stay with their captures.  This practice is a dark part of society that enslaves people in the worst and most demeaning way, and can be stopped with awareness and police work.

Economic Slavery

Wes Schiefer

In America today we don’t think of the word slavery as something that applies to our society, but many would disagree, especially those in the lower class.  The American economy thrives on the hard work of our citizens, but that work…the hard work…is typically done at minimum wage.  Often times the minimum wage of a state is set much lower that what is needed for the bare minimum living essentials.  That minimum stays low visa vi the states decision to have a lower minimum wages in an effort to bring more industry to their state, which in turn generates more taxes from large companies which turns to revenue for the state.

The poor often do not vote, so they are passed over for tax breaks they need as well as raising the minimum wage.  Typically the poor are uneducated because they come from families that are poor and need their children to begin working ASAP, fresh out of high school or before hand.  Because many places there is a minimum working age, kids can’t find jobs needed to help support them selves and their families, so they begin to commit crimes or deal in illegal drugs…taking them further down the rabbit hole.  These kids grow up to be uneducated adults with criminal records, and often un-hireable.  This downward spiral all set in to place by an economy that makes most of its profits and materials off the lowest paid worker and gives that profit to the top 2% of the population.

These individuals are modern day slaves to our economy.  Living in extreme poverty, with little food and poor to no shelter.  Forced by our economy to take jobs that pay extremely little, require hard manual labor and long hours.  Much like slavery in Americas past, or economy guarantees a different kind of slavery for our future.

Entry #3  The Slave Trade From Africa

Wes Schiefer

Slavery existed in Africa before the Spanish and Portuguese settled in Africa in the 15th century.  The native slaves became slaves because they were captured in a war or had inherited slave life.  They would typically work as servants to the local ruler of the tribe that captured them.  When the Portuguese settled in Africa around 1500 they picked up on the slave trade already going on in Africa.

African slaves were nothing new to the world; they had been used as domestic or agricultural workers in Europe and specifically around the Mediterranean long before the Portuguese settled in Africa.  When the Spanish and Portuguese started trading in slaves they initially began by swapping out their European slaves for African ones and this had a relatively low impact on Africa, which had a long tradition of small scale slave trading.  In the 16th century sugar cane began to be harvested in the Americas, specifically Brazil and the islands off the Caribbean.  The new introduction of sugar soon replaced honey as the go to sweetener, which created an increase in demand for sugar.  The new demand meant a need for more labors to farm the crop.  This new labor would come from Africa, villa the Middle Passage.

The Middle Passage was the journey by ship from Africa to the Americas.  During the 16th century and estimated 275,000 African slaves were relocated from their home country, 2,000 of those went to the Americas.  In the 17th century over 1million were relocated and 6million in the 18th century (Dulker, Jackson & Spielovogel, 2009. p.299-303).

Many of the slaves died on the journey of the Middle Passage, it is speculated that about 1/3 of the slaves died on the trip (Dulker, Jackson & Spielovogel, 2009. p.299-303.  The high demand for slaves was depleting Africa of its inhabitants in a sometimes inhumane way, but there is a bright side to everything, even slavery.  Though trading with the Europeans, Africans gained crops that gave them the ability to support more people and by luck the birth rate in Africa was quite high so their population survived.

With all the slaves being sent out of Africa one would imagine that maybe some of the European slave traders would get a conscience and try to stop the slave trade on moral grounds.  The African slave merchants had a strategy for putting Europeans at ease about slave trading.  In the slave markets, where slaves were purchased with gold, copper, textiles or guns, the African merchants would stress that African slaves were a better replacement for the American Indian slaves.  American Indian workers were thought to be too weak for hard manual labor.  Africans were better built for the hard work of cutting sugar cane.  Merchants also used the good nature or European slave traders to make sales by telling them that slaves form Africa could now be exposed and converted to Christianity.  The tradition of slavery along with the explosive European demand led to a thriving slave trade for centuries.


Duiker, William j., Jackson J., Spielvogel.   Volume I: to 1800; The Essential World History 3.  2009.

Entry #2
Wes Schiefer

Gladiator is a year 2000 film, staring Russell Crowe. Crowe plays Maximus, a roman General for the Roman Army that gets betrayed by the son of his King and consequentially thrust in to slavery. Maximus is then bought by a fight promoter who intends to make Maximums a Gladiator. Maximus, drawing from his skills as a soldier, rises to become the most popular and famous Gladiator in all of Rome, fighting in the legendary Roman Coliseum. Once reaching the Coliseum Maximus sees his sworn enemy, Commodus, the son dead king. Commodus was responsible for the death of the former King and the murder of Maximus’ wife and child.

During the games, Maximus and Commodus meet again. Commodus, the King, in an attempt to gain favor with his people and kill Maximus once and for all, arranges to fight in the Coliseum with Maximus. The final battle is where the two will meet their fate.

The character that becomes a slave, Maximus, is a roman. Romans had olive, tan looking, skin and came from Italy. Todays perception of a slave is someone of African descent, but this was not the case in the time of the Roman Empire. There were of course some slaves form Africa, but slavery consisted of all races and genders of people.

The people of Rome relied on slaves more than any other people of their time (Dulker, Jackson & Spielovogel, 2009. p.106). Slaves were primarily owned by the rich and were often displayed as a sign of prestige, the amount of slaves that waited on you would indicate how important you were. Slaves also worked as farm laborers, cooks waitress and cleaners as well as building roads and important infrastructure, much like the slaves of North America did with cotton and railroads in the 18 and 1900’s.

Slaves during the Roman Empire also held much different roles than what today’s common perception of slaves has become, working as tutors, musicians artists and even doctors. The treatment of slaves was varied. Some slaves were treated well and as family, but others were not so fortunate. Many slaves were forced to work extremely hard labor and or suffer severe punishment and torture. This cruel treatment led some slaves to run from their owners while other slaves revolted, sometimes murdering their owners. This violence led many Romans to live in unspoken fear of their slaves (Dulker, Jackson & Spielovogel, 2009. p.107).

One of the most famous slave revolts was led by a slave named Spartacus. Much like the character Maximus in the movie Gladiator, Spartacus was once a soldier with the Roman Army. Spartacus became a prisoner and was later sold and forced to become a Gladiator. Spartacus’s story then differs from the movie when Spartacus and fellow slaves escape and, in the most famous uprising on the Italian peninsula, lead a revolt of over 70,000 slaves. Spartacus went on to defeat several Roman Armies before eventually being killed in southern Italy in 71 B.C.E. (Dulker, Jackson & Spielovogel, 2009. p.107).

Duiker, William j., Jackson J., Spielvogel. Volume I: to 1800; The Essential World History 3. 2009.

Entry #1
Wes Schiefer

At the time commonly referred to as the “beginning of Civilizations,” (Dulker, Jackson & Spielovogel, 2009. p.2) when humans began to congregate together, cultivate crops and trade. Historians have attributed the rise of civilization mostly to the ability to raise crops and store food. This eventually led to an increased population and the development of cities. These cities grew to need social services and desire consumer goods. These emerging civilizations were supported by slaves. The slaves made up the majority of the population and worked the lands of the wealthy, much like how today’s wealthy stay wealthy based on the work of society’s poor. In virtually all these developing society’s slavery was common (Dulker, Jackson & Spielovogel, 2009. p.2).

In the early society of Mesopotamia, under the rule of Hammurabi, we can find direct evidence of slavery written in to the “Code of Hammurabi.” In Hammurabi’s Code there is a clear separation of free men and slaves, “…free man’s house…wife of a free man…free man’s daughter…” are clear evidence that the society at the time found it necessary to make a distinction between “free men” and slaves in their daily lives and law.

Further evidence of slavery can be found in code 199, “If he has destroyed the eye of a free man’s slave, he shall pay ½ his value.” And code 213, “If he struck a free man’s female slave and has caused her to have a miscarriage, he shall pay two shekels of silver.” (Dulker, Jackson & Spielovogel, 2009. p.12). Looking closer at the codes regarding slavery we can deduce that men as well as women, “…female slave…” were slaves. We can also conclude that the slaves at the time were of value, …”shall pay ½ his value…”, which indicates this society has an established value of slaves and that slaves could presumably be caught and sold. The fact that the society had a value for slaves leads us to believe that the society had developed some sort of standardized monetary system which is indication of an advanced social structure.

Through logical deduction we can also assume that this society valued human life and the ability to increase their population form code 213. The fact that there was a punishment, a monetary punishment, for preventing a birth indicates that there is an underlying compassion for human life in this society, even if that life is one of a slave.

Duiker, William j., Jackson J., Spielvogel. Volume I: to 1800; The Essential World History 3. 2009.



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