What would he say?
In 1808 the transatlantic slave trade – shipping in newly enslaved Africans to the Americas (and not just the United States) – ended. Despite that the number of slaves increased from nearly 700,000 in 1790 to 1.2 million in 1810, and upwards 3 fold to almost 4 million by 1860, according to this wiki article on Slavery in the US.
In 1862, September 22, to be specific, followed by Part 2 on January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation proclamation, setting in motion the process of ending slavery in the United States. (I thought it actually ended slavery, but it did not: slaves being held by northern states were not affected. See this wiki article for more information.)
However, unofficial slavery continues to exist worldwide, even in the US, where 50,000 slaves are added annually according to this article in the NY Times. However, the world-wide problem is much, much bigger.
And, bad as slavery was in the South, at least the slave owners valued their property and took some care of their $40,000 (in today’s dollars) investment. Today slaves cost only .3% to 3% ($90 to $1000) that they did back then, and are considered disposable property. And other facts about today’s slaves are equally disturbing.
What would the good Doctor say? In 1963 he was speaking to America about its continuing injustice to its brothers and sisters. In 1963 he was speaking to Blacks about their past, their present, and the future he saw in America. In 1963 he was addressing a specific situation in a specific time, though the underlying message was timeless.
Today I would hope that he would continue to address the continuing inequity and injustice between races and socio-economic groups in America, because the racial situation is still not completely resolved, nor is the disparity between the wealthy and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, the healthy and the unhealthy. But since slavery still exists, in America on an outrageous scale and in unprecedented numbers world wide, I think, I hope, that he would include modern slavery in his list of causes celebre.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”