The modern day slave trade is subject of lecture by Columbia University professor Samuel Cotton


To many Americans, slavery is an ugly chapter in the past. But few probably know that the practice of slavery still takes place in Africa, specifically in Mauritania and Sudan, said Samuel Cotton, Ph.D., a professor of U.S. Social Welfare Policy at the Columbia University School of Social Work and executive director of the Coalition Against Slavery in Mauritania and Sudan (CASMAS).

Dr. Cotton will lecture on "The Modern Day Slave Trade and Its Impact on The World," on Tuesday, Feb. 11, at Fairfield University. The 6 p.m. lecture will take place in the multimedia room of the DiMenna-Nyselius Library.

Dr. Cotton first became aware of the slave trade in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and in the Sudan in 1994 as a journalist with the "Sun," a New York weekly. His articles set off a storm of controversy in the African-American community and drew heavy criticism from the Nation of Islam. He engaged in a series of radio and television debates on the subject with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and others.

Dr. Cotton has since testified before Congress, filmed a documentary, and written a book "Silent Terror: An African-American's Journey into Slavery." He spent three weeks in 1995-96 conducting interviews in Senegalese refugee camps and in the desert capital of Mauritania in researching his works.

"It's a modern-day problem," said Cynthia Swift, counselor and coordinator of the Academic Advantage Program in the Center for Multicultural Relations at Fairfield University. "It's a human rights issue and we certainly should be interested in what's happening to people in other parts of the world because it affects us all when we still have men, women and children on the auction block being sold into slavery. We're all human beings.

"I have been inspired by Dr. Cotton's passion in fostering awareness about human right atrocities around the world," Ms. Swift added.

Dr. Cotton created CASMAS to fight slavery and other forms of human rights violations in Africa, especially in Mauritania and Sudan, and to raise awareness in the United States and abroad.

The organization has delivered more than a ton of clothing to refugees, sponsored national and international summits and conducted constant information-awareness campaigns across the country, including teach-ins and media appearances.

In the conclusion to "Silent Terror," Dr. Cotton writes: "When evils are exposed, such as those related to slavery, invariably the character of those who grasp the horrors of the revelation is tested. It is easy to rant and rage against horrors lost in antiquity, to express bitterness and anger for those tortured souls now asleep in death, or to shake one's fists at ghosts. The difficulty lies in opposing a living adversary whose rapacious appetites are hell-bound to decimate all that one holds dear in the here and now."

Dr. Cotton received his B.A. in sociology from Lehman College and a master's degree and Ph.D with a concentration in social research, from Columbia's School of Social Work. Dr. Cotton is the first Willma and Albert Musher International Fellow at the School of Social Work.

Dr. Cotton's lecture is free and open to the public. No reservations are required.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 7, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 194