Dr. John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International meets a young black Sudanese boy whose finger was cut off by his former slave master after being freed by CSI’s liberation network. (Christian Solidarity International)

How Tiny Abolitionist Groups Freed Tens of Thousands of Slaves

After having documented it for years, mainstream human rights organizations shamefully abandoned a group of people whom any decent person would imagine they would be the first to aid: the helpless black slaves of North Africa.

In a bizarre and ironic twist of fate, however, it was those very organizations’ documentation which spurred a new modern-day abolitionist movement into action, and led to a whole other coalition of activists doing what those groups should have been doing: freeing those slaves.

In 1993, Dr. Charles Jacobs, a Boston management consultant, founded the American Anti-Slavery Group along with both Christian and Muslim Africans in response to the reports on slavery in Sudan and Mauritania compiled by Human Rights Watch and other groups who had failed to make much of the information publicly available.

Not long afterward, Jacobs joined with Dr. John Eibner of the Swiss-based group Christian Solidarity International, an organization founded in 1977 to aid persecuted Christians around the world, including in Sudan, where many blacks are Christians. CSI decided that the situation in Sudan deserved drastic action, and in 1995, CSI launched a controversial effort to raise money to actually buy back and free black slaves kidnapped during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983 – 2005).

While CSI raised money and set slaves free on the ground in Sudan, the AASG traveled the country raising awareness of the slavery crisis. On three separate occasions the AASG and its associates testified on Capitol Hill (in 1996, 1999, and 2000) and set up a speakers’ bureau of escaped black slaves living in the U.S. By 2002, the American Anti-Slavery Group’s lobbying caused President George W. Bush to sign the Sudan Peace Act, which called for the black people in the south of Sudan to be given a chance to vote whether they wanted to remain within the country. The result was both the conclusion of the civil war in 2005, and the independence of South Sudan as the world’s newest nation in 2011.

CSI’s efforts brought equally extraordinary results. Between 1995 and 2011, CSI freed more than 100,000 black slaves.

None of this was achieved with the assistance of mainstream human rights organizations.

But today, we know that the situation is worse. Black slavery exists in five African countries, not only Mauritania and Arab Sudan.

The American Anti-Slavery Group will continue to fight for Africa’s black slaves. Perhaps between 529,000 and 869,000* remain in bondage. What we do know, and have known for decades, is that they can be freed without any help from the so-called “human rights community.”

Read the American Anti-Slavery Group’s reports on the enslavement of blacks in Africa today.

* This figure consists of the estimates of those enslaved in Algeria (106,000), Libya (48,000), Mauritania (340,000 – 680,000), and Sudan (35,000) — excluding Nigeria, for which there are no tangible estimates.