Plunkett: Slavery is an American value

Rory Plunkett

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Colorado recently voted to abolish slavery in its Constitution, but slavery is still legal under the U.S. Constitution.


Many people believe that slavery is a thing of the past, but in truth, slavery has persisted throughout U.S. history into today. It has carried on through involuntary servitude through the prison complex and illegal sex trafficking. These are modern day forms of slavery. Because of the original institute of slavery and the fact that it continues to persist, slavery should be considered an American value.

According to, the word value is defined as “relative worth, merit, or importance.” Because of how slavery has been a common theme in this country could be considered an American value. Throughout American history, people of color have been exploited for free labor, and it’s still happening today.

The 13th Amendment, issued in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Slavery is not legal in the US with the exception of as a punishment for crime. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Black Americans make up 38 percent of our prison population. They only make up about 14 percent of the general population in the US. And with felony-disenfranchisement laws, this means that 13 percent of all Black American men are denied the right to vote.

This alone does not prove systemic racism although it is a result of it. It does prove that the discriminatory values of the Confederacy and of America before 1863 are still present today.

According to Alythea S. Morrell from the University of San Francisco, convict leasing began in 1865. She also said that convict leasing was worse than slavery. Convict leasing meant that any businessman or private company could pay the state money to lease prisoners.

A Netflix documentary called “The 13th” argues that mass incarceration is an extension of slavery. Director Ava DuVernay, who also directed the historically acclaimed film “Selma”, included images of Emmit Till’s open casket funeral, footage of African Americans being attacked with pressure fire hoses, and unarmed black men and women being killed by police officers.

She juxtaposed this with then-Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump’s offensive campaign rhetoric as well as Hilary Clinton’s controversial remarks on “superpredators.”

Today some inmates are only paid $0.13 an hour for their work, and private companies profit from their work.

According to the NAACP, after the Civil War, decades of lynching commenced, eventually resulting, along with other contributors, in the Civil Rights movement. The reason for these lynchings was ultimately for White people in the South to impose authority and control over the recently freed Black people.


Ever since 1776 slavery has existed in some shape or form. According to the Social Welfare History Project, Jim Crow Laws were intended to limit the freedom of African Americans and force them into a labor economy based on low wages and debt, similar to involuntary servitude.

So if mass incarceration is an extension of slavery, and Jim Crow Laws were effectively slavery as well, then when has American been free of slavery?

Morell also said, “Profiting off of the incarceration of Black and Brown people is nothing new to the U.S.”

“Profiting off of the incarceration of Black and Brown people is nothing new to the US.”  Alythea S. Morrell from the University of San Francisco

Slavery has persisted through American history and culture, specifically targeting Black people. Because of this, and the fact that systems like this continue to function, slavery is inherently an American value.

Slavery was supposed to be abolished in 1863, but America has clung onto what forms of slavery into 2018 and the foreseeable future.

Rory Plunkett can be reached at or Twitter at @jericho.wav.