Slavery reflects one of the most traumatic times in the history of this nation. Beginning in 1619 with the introduction of the first “indentured servants” to the United States from Africa, this era marked the first time that people were viewed as commodities that could abused and manipulated in the name of profits. By 1660, the practice had become officially institutionalized and recognized around the nation. The first records of slaves on plantations in Barbados and Jamaica appeared by the 1750's. In America, the 1840's saw the publication of pre-made accounting books designed specifically for plantation owners. These ledgers were designed so that owners could maximize the profits they could gain from “human capital” by tracking individual productivity closely. By the time 1860 rolled around, 12.5 million African slaves had been shipped to America using 35,000 separate voyages.
We may think that these days are now a mere dark shadow of the past. However, slavery is still alive and well around the world in many different ways. Sex trafficking, bonded labor, child slavery, and arranged marriages are major problems all across the globe. There is little that is being done to discourage these practices, and over 20 million men, women, and children fall into slavery each and every year. People are still being viewed as commodities. Citizens of the United States may feel that the home of the free exists without such practices being widely used. However, slavery still exists on our shores in much subtler ways.
The corporate environment and modern business practices have many similarities to the techniques exercised by slave owners of the past. People working in the corporate landscape still view their workers as resources that are tracked just as closely as slaves once were. It is still a common saying that everyone has their price, and anyone can be bought and sold for the right amount. Business managers also push their employees to the absolute breaking point in the name of profit for little or no extra rewards. People are mere numbers in this world and viewed as gears in the larger machine. This view is astoundingly close to the philosophies that once guided plantation owners who used slavery as their means for production.