Abolition Today: An Initiative for Public Reflection on Human Trafficking and Criminal Justice


Mellon/ACLS Scholars and Society Fellowships


Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies


National Underground Railroad Freedom Center


“Abolition Today” is a collaboration with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC) in Cincinnati, Ohio that focuses on the connections and tensions between contemporary movements for prison abolition and current movements to abolish human trafficking (often called “modern day slavery”). The museum’s mission is to engage the public about the historical record of chattel slavery, the underground railroad, and social justice efforts that continue the legacy of abolition. The expanding concern for human trafficking as a contemporary form of enslavement presents both an opportunity and challenge for those who are concerned with remembering and addressing the legacies of chattel slavery, including activism to address the problem of mass incarceration. Using humanistic social science methods and modern museum practices, as well as community input, collaborators will build a digital platform to spur reflection on the dual meanings of abolition. In addition, collaborators will organize events designed to introduce the digital platform and invite reflection on the connections and tensions between different calls for abolition today. The collaboration affirms the importance of museums such as the NURFC to foster public reflection and advance dialogue on the most pressing issues of the day.