Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum

Posted August 9th, 2010 by
Category: Modern issues Tags: ,

James DeWolf Perry is a regular contributor. He appears in the film Traces of the Trade and is the Tracing Center’s director of research. This entry is cross-posted from James’ own blog, The Living Consequences, and the opinions expressed are his own.

The Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum, a traveling exhibit consisting of a replica of the trucks involved in one of the most shocking cases of modern-day slavery in the U.S., is currently touring the nation.

The museum has toured Florida extensively, as well as appearing on the National Mall and at the State Department in Washington, D.C. It is now on a lightning tour of other East Coast locations: today, the museum is at City Hall in Boston; tomorrow, it will be in western Massachusetts, and by the end of the week it will be in Baltimore before ending the tour seven days from now with a stop in Charlotte, N.C.

The museum is based on the case of nine migrant workers who were enslaved and abused by a family in Immokalee, Florida. In this case, “modern-day slavery” is no exaggeration: in U.S. v. Navarrete, a half-dozen defendants pleaded guilty to what the U.S. Justice Department describes as “a scheme to enslave Mexican and Guatemalan nationals and compel their labor as farmworkers” in Florida.

The two “bosses” were sentenced to 12 years each in prison for crimes related to the enslavement, including “beating, threatening, restraining and locking workers in trucks to force them to work as agricultural laborers.” The Navarrete family did pay their workers, but offered what prosecutors described as “minimal wages” while driving them into debt and threatening physical harm if the workers chose to leave their employ. The Navarretes did not use the victims on their own land, but instead brought them to work on farms owned by major Florida tomato growers.

Testimony from the victims described horrific beatings and imprisonment each night in a truck under appalling conditions.

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