The former French colony is a meeting point of two very different cultures. For centuries, the light-skinned Moors have dominated people from the rim of sub-Saharan black Africa. That domination has often taken the form of enslavement. In his report for All Things Considered Ivan Watson talks to former slaves, activists and refugees to get a sense of what's happening in Mauritania.
Slavery in the northwest African country is more of a private tradition than an public institution. The government isn't directly involved, and it even refuses to publicly admit that slavery exists in Mauritania. Individuals and families have been practicing slavery for centuries. Some slaves are treated well by their masters, others are abused. "There are different levels to it," says Franklin Graham, an American aid worker.
Some black Moors, he says, feel they simply can't leave their masters. "They look at it as…'Well, if I lose my relationship with this family, what am I going to do?' They do not have education, regretfully, and the opportunity to go off and do something else is just not provided for them."