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Roger Kynaston, Merchant and Plantation Owner

Modern Slavery

This section contains triggers around lived experience of racism, enforced migration, trafficking, abuse and violence. When talking about contemporary issues with your class, be aware of their sensitivities and frame the information carefully. It may help to talk about discussion ground rules as a class.

James Wiles, Albertina Bird and Roger Kynsaton all owned enslaved people who were either working on plantations they owned, or who were being hired out to work on other plantations. All three slave owners were profiting from enslaved workers 200 years ago.

However, slavery is not just a historical issue. It happens today, across the globe and in Leeds and Yorkshire as modern slavery.

Modern slavery can be defined as the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain. It often involves human trafficking. This is very similar to the situation 200 years ago. Modern Slavery can include making clothes, serving food, picking crops, working in factories, or working in houses as cooks, cleaners or nannies. From the outside, these can look like a normal jobs, but beneath the surface people are being controlled with violence or threats against them or their families. They have no access to finances and may have had their passports removed.

The contemporary statistics relating to modern slavery are shocking:

  • 40 million people are estimated to be trapped in modern slavery worldwide
  • 1 in 4 of them are children.
  • Almost three quarters (71%) are women and girls.
  • Over 10,000 were identified as potential victims by the authorities in the UK in 2019.

We would now understand the apprenticeship system that legally replaced historic slavery in 1833 as debt bondage, bonded labour or indentured labour. This is now the world’s most widespread form of slavery where people who are trapped in poverty borrow money and are forced to work to pay off the debt, losing control over both their employment conditions and the debt.

A key discussion point with your class will be to help them to understand that these are still issues in contemporary society, in their city and their region, and that people still suffer through slavery. The numbers above may not mean anything to younger pupils; however, there are stories and resources for explaining the concepts at Hope for Justice and Anti-Slavery.org (see Supporting Links).