Black Suffering for/from Anti-trafficking Advocacy
This article analyses the images that Antislavery Usable Past creates to promote its cause of ‘making the antislavery past usable for contemporary abolition’. Drawing on collective memory studies, I discuss the political implications of how pasts are used for present issues. I argue that Antislavery Usable Past appropriates black suffering by reducing the memory and imagery of slavery to objects that are compatible with the anti-trafficking narrative, without regard for the ongoing black liberation struggle. I conclude by discussing the troubling trend of incorporating anti-trafficking exhibitions into institutions that preserve the history of slavery and abolition. Such inclusions redirect the history lessons of slavery away from understanding and addressing anti-blackness in the present and towards supporting advocacy campaigns articulated in the logics that underpinned racial chattel slavery in the first place.