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Medical News and Perspectives
August 3, 2005

Modern Slavery a Hidden Crime in the US

JAMA. 2005;294(5):541-542. doi:10.1001/jama.294.5.541

In 1860, about 4 million of the approximately 29 million persons living in the United States were slaves, a practice that supported major sectors of the economy and was protected by federal law. After slavery was abolished in the United States, working conditions for former slaves and their descendants gradually improved.

Today, slavery is considered a thing of the past in the United States—and yet, to a degree that would astonish many people, it still exists. An estimated 10 000 or more people from at least 39 countries (including the United States) are working as forced laborers in the United States, according to a September 2004 report of the Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley (http://www.freetheslaves.net/files/Hidden_Slaves.pdf).