The New Slave Narrative: Advocacy and Human Rights in Stories of Contemporary Slavery

Johnson, Kelli Lyon (2013): The New Slave Narrative: Advocacy and Human Rights in Stories of Contemporary Slavery, Journal of Human Rights, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp. 242-258. 

This article examines 149 narratives by people enslaved at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries. These first-person narratives provide the very framework through which they must be read, not only in order to understanding the experiences of enslaved people but in order to end slavery. Contemporary slave narratives thus reveal narrative advocacy by identifying and describing the interventions or strategies necessary to combat slavery at the same time that they demand the active collaboration of the readers and listeners with the narrators in the work. Narrative advocacy explicitly encompasses agency in being deliberate, purposeful, and strategic, and narrators thus assert their agency in telling their stories and providing the strategies that must be implemented to prevent enslavement, to facilitate emancipation, and to serve its survivors. These narrators demonstrate the necessity of a survivor-centered approach that includes legal solutions, policy changes, education initiatives, and the improvement of survivor services. The potential of contemporary slave narratives in this human rights project—that is, the eradication of the human rights violation of enslavement—revolves around reading, comprehending, and implementing the strategies offered by the narrators themselves.

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