The word slavery usually conjures images of African men in shackles, being auctioned off in America’s segregated South. Thankfully, those days are gone. But slavery is not.
Even as a black family occupies the White House, the practice of slavery continues in new, sinister interpretations, trapping more than 20-million people of different ethnicities and cultures in degrading and dangerous lives.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is dedicated to ending the ancient crime of slavery for all people, for all time. As Honorary Co-Chairman of the Freedom Center, John Pepper knows what that requires. It means creating a new, global network of abolitionists to stand up and demand an end to the enslavement of their fellow humans wherever and whenever they see it.
Founded just ten years ago in Ohio, the Freedom Center is a history museum with a clear mission-- to reveal stories about freedom’s heroes, from the era of the Underground Railroad to contemporary times, challenging and inspiring everyone to get involved and take courageous steps for freedom today.
21st Century slaves work as field hands, in sweatshops, as child soldiers, as common laborers so deeply in debt that their obligation can never be repaid, and as sex slaves in the commercial sex industry. They are a vulnerable and invisible workforce, even in America. And their slave masters are getting rich on their labor, building an industry with profits estimated now at more than 30-billion dollars a year.
Despite that unsettling statistic, John Pepper and the staff of the Freedom Center are encouraged by what they believe is man’s inherent goodness, demonstrated by the relentless efforts of today’s abolitionists, ordinary people taking everyday actions to end slavery. The Freedom Center hopes to inspire more fair-minded people to join the struggle for justice.
Each year, more than 100-thousand visitors to the museum experience exhibits and programs that focus on America's battle to rid itself of the ugly scourge of slavery and treat all its citizens with respect and dignity. The stories told serve to inspire modern abolition through connecting the lessons of the Underground Railroad with today’s freedom fighters.
John Pepper and his colleagues at The Freedom Center believe that the courage, perseverance and multicultural cooperation that fueled the Underground Railroad hundreds of years ago, hold truth and promise for us today -- the truth that every person deserves to live free. And the promise that, with the help of “good” people everywhere, history can repeat itself and slavery--in all its forms--can be abolished forever.