Updated: Nov 4, 2019
Continuing with the theme from last week’s blog . . .
What is a girl worth?
What IS a girl worth? It depends. Has she escaped or is she up for auction?
If up for auction, then upwards of $8,000. If escaped, then about $3,000. (These amounts, in the hundreds-of-dollars in the 1800s, are adjusted for 21st century valuation. See National Archives.)
“Minty” in the above published runaway slave reward notice in the Cambridge Democrat newspaper is better known as Harriet Tubman. And though we see what her slave master believed her return was worth, we know her true value.
Seeing the new film Harriet moved me, to feel deeply and search intently into the life of this amazing woman. (Listen to a film review here; read one here.) I highly recommend this biopic by writer-director Kasi Lemmons, who wrote the screenplay with Gregory Allen Howard.
Araminta Ross was born into slavery in Maryland around the second decade of the 1800s. As with many slaves in the U.S., neither the exact year nor place of her birth is known. She was raised in the Christian faith and though illiterate, learned about God from her mother who taught her the Bible. Her faith infused her with great wisdom and passion, fueling her lifelong work as an abolitionist.
She suffered a closed-head injury as an adolescent when an overseer threw a metal object intending to hit a nearby fleeing slave. She was plagued with seizures and headaches her whole life. Tubman began experiencing visions and vivid dreams which she interpreted as revelations from God.
Around the time she was 30, she resolved to escape to freedom in the North. In her biography, Harriet: The Moses of Her People, Sarah Bradford shared Tubman’s ultimatum: "There was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other."
Tubman made use of the network known as the Underground Railroad, the informal but well-organized system composed of free and enslaved blacks, white abolitionists, and other activists. She travelled by night, guided by the North Star, trying to avoid slave catchers eager to collect rewards for fugitive slaves.
"There was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other." ~ Harriet Tubman
Over 11 years, Tubman returned repeatedly to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, evading capture and rescuing some 70 slaves, including her siblings and parents, over the course of about 13 expeditions. Her dangerous work required tremendous ingenuity. Revolver-toting and not afraid to use it, her journeys put her at tremendous risk.
During the Civil War, Tubman served as cook, nurse and spy, also becoming the first woman to lead an armed assault! She became a wife and an adoptive mother. She found time to lobby for women’s suffrage. She is a national hero, remembered for her deep conviction and bravery in action to end human slavery. (Attribution to Wikipedia for material in the above three paragraphs.)
In a climactic and deeply satisfying scene in Harriet, Tubman (played excellently by Cynthia Erivo) faces off with her former owner, besting him with her pistol yet sparing his life. Her final words to him, “God don't mean people to own people.”
And yet . . .
Despite the best efforts of great people like Tubman, Frederick Douglass, William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln, the madness continues. What is it about human nature that we gravitate toward depravity?
“The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
Or as Canadian psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson aptly frames the problem, “I don't think that you have any insight whatsoever into your capacity for good until you have some well-developed insight into your capacity for evil.”
On its homepage, the organization End Slavery Now states: “There are an estimated 21 to 45 million people trapped in some form of slavery today. It’s sometimes called modern-day slavery and sometimes human trafficking. At all times it is slavery at its core.”
Women, children and men are ruthlessly exploited for numerous purposes including forced labor and sex. This global crime generates billions of dollars in profits for the traffickers.
“God don't mean people to own people.” ~ Harriet Tubman from Harriet
According to Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Human trafficking happens throughout the world with millions of victims falling through the cracks of their own societies only to be exploited by traffickers. They can be found in the world’s restaurants, fisheries, brothels, farms and homes, among many other activities.
“One of the most worrying trends is the increase in child victims. From 2003—2006, 20 percent of all detected victims were children. Between 2007 and 2010, the percentage of child victims had risen to 27 percent.”
In the spring of 2019, I attended a regional pregnancy resource center training and heard guest speaker FBI special agent Nate Knapper of the Southeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation Crimes (SEMTEC) Task Force share about the reality of human trafficking and child exploitation crimes occuring right near my home.
Modern-day slavery victims are overwhelmingly young and female and are exploited through force, fraud and coercion to the commercial benefit of pimps who lure them with flattery, promises of valuable goods and a new life. The victim quickly becomes dependent, usually through addiction to hard drugs.
“The higher the vulnerability, the greater the chance of victimization,” says Knapper. “And the traffickers encompass men and women of all races and socioeconomic status.” He described pimps' recruitment tactics as either “finesse” (baiting) or “guerilla” (brute force).
“I don't think that you have any insight whatsoever into your capacity for good until you have some well-developed insight into your capacity for evil.” ~ Jordan B. Peterson
The majority of victims are “caught” via social media. Homeless and runaway youth and children in the foster care system are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking. Knapper says the average age of a new child prostitute is 16-years-old. The average life expectancy is seven years. Lord help us. Lord help them! Lord, help us help them!!
He shared these Red Flags of Sex Trafficking, warning us that victims are hidden in plain sight:
Numerous hotel room keys
False IDs/lying about age
Large quantities of cash
Tatooing, branding, black eyes
Lack of knowledge of the area
Cell phones not in parents’ name
Youth hanging around much older adults
Learn more about modern-day slavery going on around us. The following national resources have links to connect you with local advocates who are working to abolish slavery.
I recently became acquainted with an amazing resource near me, Hope Against Trafficking. Located in the Detroit metro area, it is a residential program that provides restorative housing and comprehensive services focused on physical, mental, emotional and economic transformation for adult female survivors of sex and labor trafficking.
THIS is what the gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God, looks like in action! This beautifully-made video, posted on their website, illustrates the hope that exists for survivors of slavery.
As I researched for this story, I found this really interesting infographic “The Cost of Human Life”. I did not fact-check it.
End Abortion Now (EAN) is a global movement of local Christian churches committed to ending abortion with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t recall seeing the first EAN documentary, but recently watched the second (embedded below). It is radical, intense and provocative. If you believe that from conception an unborn human is a person worthy of life and that abortion is the intentional killing of that life, you will want to watch this. If you are familiar with the recent introduction of heartbeat bills, here in Michigan and around the nation, you will want to watch from minute 29:21 to 37:07.