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Tasneem Mahmood
Professor Bobby Jones
English 1301
26 July 2015
Selling Children
When one hears of selling children, most people would think of the African American
slave trade that took place in the confederate south of America during the 18th century. However,
what they fail to realize is that slavery has persevered throughout all of time. Slavery is so
widespread and pervasive that it is a topic of conversation from the Bible to when explorers
enslaved Native Americans in the New World during the 17th century. With so many horrible
examples of slavery in the worlds past, one would assume it would have died out. That line of
thinking is wrong. Slavery is still as prevalent today as it was in the past as we can see in the
above.
The referenced photo depicts victims of human trafficking who are forced into tiny,
inhumane, and unsanitary living areas. The photographer, Jodi Cobb, shot this photo in
coordination with a journalistic piece called 21st Century Slaves. Both these visual and
narrative depictions of slavery were highlighted in National Geographic Magazine. The above
mentioned photograph is almost miniscule. This makes it hard to differentiate the gender and
ages of the victim. The main focus of the snapshot seems to be a poorly dressed, emaciated,
unkempt 6 year old girl who is seen standing in the back of a crowded and dirty room. This
disturbing visualization with the bolded text of 21st Century Slaves, do a great job of
expressing to the reader what the topic of this article is.

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The 6 year old girl that is the focal point of the picture is what draws the readers eyes.
Her complexion and hair color could suggest that she is originally from Asia or Africa. However,
this assumption is premature because lots of child slaves are moved across international borders.
With how unkempt the room is in the picture, one would assume that the location of this
trafficking site is a third world country. Even though there are plenty of children in the picture
and the room is gloomy, what really wrenches the readers heart is the look of loss on the 6 year
old girls face. The reader begins to wonder how this child is a modern day slave. Was she
kidnapped, birthed into, or sold into this life? No one will ever know the true facts, but what can
be assumed is that she was a child who was unwittingly taken away from a proper childhood and
treated as an object. Somewhere out there she has a mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt,
cousin, grandmother, grandfather, etc. that she will never know. Her entire youth was ripped
away from her and now she will forever live with the horrors she probably endures on a day to
day basis. She will never know a proper life and think that this misery is what is normal for
everyone around the world. However gloomy the topic of childhood slavery is, I think the
photographer wanted to bring some hope as well. I think he accomplished this with the lighting
in the photo. The back of the room, where the girl is standing, is much brighter than the front
where children are seated and chained. The girl being outlined by the light is intentional, it
makes her stand apart from the rest of the photograph. One thought is that women are the most
likely victims to become human slaves, thus the light shining on a girl is to make us more
cognizant of this fact. I like to think the light is more symbolic. I think the author is hoping to
cast a light on this issue and bring human slavery to the forefront of discussion. Thus, more
people will be aware of its atrocities and want to make a stand to stamp it out of existence.

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Even though our generation never had a slave trade of African Americans or enslavement
of native Americans, we still have a form of slavery in existence today, human trafficking.
History is bound to repeat itself unless civilization recognizes trends and makes an active effort
to stop the cycle. We stopped forms of slavery in our past, we must do so again now. This issue
of human trafficking exists today because it goes largely unnoticed. People are not aware of this
inhumane process. Powerful visual depictions of human trafficking like this one and public
articles are what we need to shed light on this topic, get the conversation started, and get people
involved.

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Works Cited
1.
2.

Cobb, Jodi. 21st Century Slaves. Digital image. National Geographic.


National Geographic, 29 Dec. 2010. Web. 25 July 2015.
"11 Facts About Human Trafficking." 11 Facts About Human
Trafficking. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2015.