The Middle Passage provokes images of dark, cramped sailing ships stuffed to capacity with suffering human beings, kidnapped in Africa and destined for lives of toil on plantations in the New World. It is something to be read about at home, spoken of in lecture halls, and then gratefully put back into the past. While the massive transport of millions of human beings is something which does not occur openly today, a smaller, more deeply hidden, and yet no less insidious Middle Passage occurs today. The kidnapping, transport, and sale of thousands of people, many of them women and children occur every day all over the world. Many of these victims of human trafficking end up as enslaved domestic labor. Others, especially women and children, are further victimized when forced to work in the sex industry. In 2013, the United States Government estimated that at least 17,000 men, women, and children were trafficked into the United States to work as slaves. Worldwide these numbers increase exponentially, and rise every year.
It is estimated by U.S. government agencies that today there are over 27 million people enslaved around the world. While this number is significant, what is more important to remember is that this is 27 million individuals, each with their own names, faces and stories. Each one of these stories represents an ongoing crisis and tragedy which needs to be confronted. The successes which were achieved by 19th century abolitionists were difficult and hard fought, but can be repeated. Organizations such as UNICEF, iAbolish, and Free The Slaves have helped lead the fight against this modern nightmare. While the methods of human traffickers have changed since the time of the African Slave Trade, the intent of these modern day slavers have not. The nightmare of the Middle Passage continues for some; hopefully, some day, it will be the past for them as well.