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Congressional Champions Against Slavery

The Abolition Institute commends leaders from both parties who have taken tough steps to combat modern day slavery.  U.S. Senator Richard Durbin and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky from Illinois – “the Land of Lincoln” - have devoted tremendous energy to the issue.  Senator Durbin led the way in securing increased U.S. government resources for slavery eradication efforts in Mauritania and its neighboring countries.  Early in his career, he helped victims of human rights violations in Mauritania secure asylum in the United States.
 
Former Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, previously Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, worked for years to pass a bold, far-reaching plan to increase global investment and collaboration in the fight against slavery: The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act.  Senator Corker was inspired to act in part by meeting child victims of modern day slavery in the Philipines; an experience which motivated him to make slavery eradication a hallmark of his career in the Senate. 
 
In June of 2020, United States Representatives Steve Chabot (OH), Chris Smith (NJ), Ron Wright (TX), Tim Burchett (TN) and Jim Sensenbrenner (WI) officially requested the U.S. State Department to increase focus on slavery and human rights in Mauritania.  Read their statement here.

Congressman Steve Chabot and Joyce Beatty (OH) both represent significant numbers of Mauritanian-Americans who fled persecution and human rights violations to build lives for themselves and their families in Ohio.  We thank them, and Representatives including Mike Quigley (IL), John Lewis (GA), and Karen Bass (CA), longtime champions on African human rights issues who have personally met with Mauritanians about slavery issues.

President Obama Visits West Africa to Address Slavery

Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States and the nation’s first African-American President, visited Dakar, Senegal on Thursday, June 27th 2013 to speak out against slavery.  President Obama has been a lifelong opponent of modern day slavery and human trafficking, and counts legendary anti-slavery leaders from his home state of Illinois as his personal heroes.

Restaurant Obama in Nouakchott: Many Africans regard Barack Obama as a role-model for being elected the first African-American President of the United States.

Underscoring his lifelong commitment to human rights and the eradication of slavery, Obama spoke less than 150 miles from Mauritania – a nation described in a chilling CNN expose as “Slavery’s Last Stronghold

 

According the Chicago Tribune, one of President Obama’s hometown newspapers, Obama was deeply moved by seeing the areas where the inhumanity of the slave system was at its worst.

“Obviously for an African-American, and an African-American President, to be able to visit this site, I think gives me an even greater motivation in terms of the defense of human rights around the world, “ Obama said after his tour. 

“I think more than anything what it reminds us of is that we have to remain vigilant when it comes to the defense of people’s human rights, because I’m a firm believer that humanity is fundamentally good, but its only good when good people stand up for what’s right,” he said…

 

The Obamas were the first to make the visit aware that their ancestors knew such cruelty…Michelle Obama’s great-great-grandfather was freed from a South Carolina plantation…

 

He said it was especially powerful for his family “to be able to come here and fully appreciate the magnitude of the slave trade, to get a sense in a very intimate way of the incredible inhumanity and hardship that people faced.”

Abolition Institute co-founders who served on President Obama’s Presidential Campaign Staff saw his commitment to abolition firsthand, and thank him – as well as Presidents and Members of Congress from both parties – for their work against slavery in Mauritania.

Photos in Mauritania by Michael Hylton for Anti-Slavery International

Photos in Chicago by Jason Jones

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