On Thursday, April 28th, the Laogai Museum hosted authors Marjorie Gann and Janet Willen for the launch of their new book, Five Thousand Years of Slavery. The book chronicles the history of slavery around the world and is a chilling reminder that this crime against humanity continues to exist today. The book is written in a narrative style and is intended to raise awareness about slavery among young adults. It is a great resource for teachers looking to educate students about this difficult issue, telling the moving personal stories of those who have been enslaved in all corners of the globe.
Author Janet Willen said that when she first heard Laogai Research Foundation’s Harry Wu speak of his experience toiling in China’s prison-run mines, she saw chilling parallels between this account of slavery and the numerous stories of slaves in antiquity, which are profiled in the book. Marjorie Gann expressed that the authors sought to give a voice to the voiceless through the book, sharing their eyewitness accounts with the world. Ms. Willen read aloud the harrowing tale of Francis Bok, a young boy captured and thrown into slavery in Sudan in 1986, who, after being held captive for ten years, finally escaped and immigrated to the U.S. Ms. Gann also read aloud the story of a young Chinese girl, Qiu Mei, who was sold into slavery by her poor parents in the 1920s. Francis and Qiu Mei, although from different times and different parts of the world, were both subjected to the cruel and abusive treatment of their masters, thus highlighting both the universality and timelessness of the issue of slavery.
Laogai Research Foundation executive director Harry Wu also shared his own experience as a political prisoner in China. He spoke of his hopes to raise awareness about the ongoing atrocities of China’s Laogai (forced labor prison camps) and called on government leaders to address these and other human rights violations in a more concrete way. He also welcomed visitors to the recently opened Laogai Museum and invited them to browse the exhibits to learn more about the Chinese Communist Party’s decades-long use of forced labor as a tool of repression.