Florida Modern Slavery Museum Visits USF April 13

TAMPA, Fla. (April 7, 2010) – The Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum will visit USF Friday, April 13 on the green east of Cooper Hall. Professors are encouraged to bring their classes to view the museum. Guided tours will be available.


The museum, which consists of a cargo truck outfitted as a replica of trucks involved in a recent slavery operation and accompanied by displays on the history and evolution of slavery in Florida, focuses on the phenomenon of modern-day slavery.


“For too long, political representatives and ordinary citizens have ignored the recurring instances of enslavement in contemporary Florida,” said Patrick Mason, a professor of economics and director of the African American studies program at Florida State University. “Indeed, for too long, there has been insufficient light shining on the low pay and indecent working conditions of agricultural workers in this state. The mobile Florida Modern Slavery Museum is [an] impressive and imaginative approach to shedding new light on these old issues.”


The museum was conceived by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the human rights award-winning farmworker organization that has aided in the prosecution by the Department of Justice of six farm slavery operations and the liberation of well over 1,000 workers.


“The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is one of the most effective anti-slavery groups on earth,” said Kevin Bales, the Pulitzer-nominated author and president of Free the Slaves, an internationally-respected anti-slavery advocacy organization. “Their new traveling museum helps all of us learn what we need to know in order to bring this crime to an end.”


Exhibits in the museum were developed in consultation with workers who have escaped from forced labor operations, as well as leading academic authorities on slavery and labor history in Florida. It is endorsed by many leading human rights and anti-slavery organizations, including Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International, respectively the largest human rights organization and the oldest human rights organization in the world.


The museum tour, which includes various stops throughout the state of Florida, will culminate as the box truck leads the CIW's Farmworker Freedom March from April 16-18. During the march, hundreds of farmworkers and their allies will march from Tampa to Lakeland -- headquarters of Publix Super Markets -- to call on Publix to join eight other food industry leaders in working with the CIW to improve wages and working conditions for workers in their tomato supply chain.


“Slavery in Florida agriculture today is not separate from the past – indeed, its roots extend deep within our state’s history.  Farmworkers have always been, and remain today, the state’s poorest, least powerful workers,” explains Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. “If we are to abolish slavery once and for all in Florida agriculture, we must pull it up by the roots by addressing farmworker poverty and powerlessness.”


There is the possibility of a second visit to USF Wednesday, April 14. Email Meghan Cohorst of the Student/Farmworker Alliance, or call 239-503-1533 for more details.


For more information, visit the Farmworker Freedom March Web site.