When we think of slavery, the 400 years of chattel bondage of Africans and their descendants in the New World usually comes to mind. Yet various forms of coerced labor have been referred to as slavery. Moreover, chattel slavery is not the only type of slavery to have ever existed. In order to appreciate the diversity of slave experiences, and drive our discussions about forced labor in general, we will learn about slavery in the ancient world and pre-colonial West Africa, and then more deeply explore the evolution of slave societies in the New World-North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Over the course of this semester we will examine and compare various forms of coerced labor from temporary servitude to full-fledged chattel slavery employing multiple perspectives and disciplines. We will examine slave hymns and chain-gang songs to investigate the perspectives of the bonded laborer; we will explore the political, economic, religious, and scientific rationales for coerced labor to delve into the perspective of the master/owner class; we will explore psychological, gender, and sociological studies to understand the effects of forced labor on the worker, his/her family, and the community; and we will analyze artwork and literature to consider how coerced laborers and their descendants seek to cope with their past. In order to put this information in perspective, we will conclude by completing a written project and formal presentation on modern slavery and human trafficking.


4 sh


Open to students in the third or fourth year of study.

Course Types

Core Interdisciplinary Seminar


This course is writing intensive.

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