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The Construction of Whiteness

Gerald Horne is the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. He is a prolific author whose most recent book is The Counter-Revolution of 1776: : Slave Resistance & the Origins of the United States of America (published by NYU Press; available on Google Books). From the publisher's description:
The so-called Revolutionary War, Horne writes, was in large part a counter-revolution, a conservative movement that the founding fathers fought in order to preserve their liberty to enslave others—and which today takes the form of a racialized conservatism and a persistent racism targeting the descendants of the enslaved.
Early in the book, Horne writes:
The construction of 'whiteness' or the forging of bonds between and among European settlers across class, gender, ethnic, and religious lines was a concrete response to the real dangers faced by all of these migrants in the face of often violent rebellions from enslaved Africans and their indigenous comrades.
He recently sat down with Paul Jay of the Real News Network for the show Reality Asserts Itself. The result is a far-ranging discussion that covers his youth growing up in Jim Crow era St. Louis, his personal and intellectual development, pre-revolutionary America and the lucrative business of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the Civil rights movement. The interview concludes by bringing us back to recent events, including the recent chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York, and the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. [more inside]
posted by mondo dentro on Aug 25, 2014 - 14 comments

"A Subtlety" & We Are Here

Why I Yelled at the Kara Walker Exhibit: "Anger shot up my body like a hot thermometer. Face flushed, I walked to the Mammy sphinx. Couples posed in front of it, smiling as others took their photos. So here it was, an artwork about how Black people’s pain was transformed into money was a tourist attraction for them... Something snapped... I yelled that this was our history and that many of us were angry and sad that it was a site of pornographic jokes." [more inside]
posted by flex on Jul 2, 2014 - 170 comments

Did black people own slaves?

"One of the most vexing questions in African-American history is whether free African Americans themselves owned slaves. The short answer to this question, as you might suspect, is yes, of course … For me, the really fascinating questions about black slave-owning are how many black "masters" were involved, how many slaves did they own and why did they own slaves?" Henry Louis Gates Jr. on black slave owners.
posted by klangklangston on Jun 26, 2014 - 56 comments

Supermarket slave trail

A six-month investigation has established that large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of prawns (commonly called shrimp in the US) sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.
So it turns out many of the prawns on sale at your local supermarket are produced by slave labour.
posted by MartinWisse on Jun 10, 2014 - 64 comments

Ambassadors from Mars

The strange, tragic story of the Brothers Muse. The sideshow called them Eko and Iko, cannibal savages from Borneo, sheep-headed men, ambassadors from Mars, highlighting their signature white dreadlocks in every poster. In reality, they were George and Willie Muse, taken from their parents in 1899 in rural Roanoke, Virginia by bounty hunters working for sideshow producers fascinated by their albinism. [more inside]
posted by Gucky on May 29, 2014 - 7 comments

A painting, a smile, a director. Dido Elizabeth Belle; Amma Asante

The enigma of Mona Lisa's smile? Who cares? The mystery of Dido Belle is much more intriguing. The double portrait Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray, once attributed to Johann Zoffany and now hanging in Scone Palace in Perth, depicts two elegant 18th-century women in silks and pearls at Kenwood House in London. Beyond them, you can just glimpse St Paul's and the rest of the Georgian cityscape. Nothing unusual about any of that, but for one detail – Dido is mixed race. Belle is about slavery and follows on the heels of Steve McQueen's Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave. An impossible act to follow, you might suppose. Yet the two films could hardly be more different. "I wouldn't want audiences to come to Belle and think they were about to see '12 Years a Slave Mark 2'," Asante says. Based in Britain and rooted in fact, Belle is an extraordinary story, she tells me: Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804) was the daughter of John Lindsay, a British admiral, and an African slave. She grew up in Kenwood House, Hampstead, under the guardianship of Lord Chief Justice Mansfield. One delicately speculative Guardian article about a painting and its context leads to a fascinating portait of a Ghanaian/British filmmaker and the circumstances that formed her. Asante has always had an "extra eye" and sees herself as an insider and outsider (all directors, she believes, need to be emotionally ambidextrous).
posted by glasseyes on May 28, 2014 - 12 comments

"By our unpaid labor and suffering..."

"To celebrate freedom and democracy while forgetting America’s origins in a slavery economy is patriotism à la carte." Slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation both de jure and de facto--Ta-Nehisi Coates on The Case for Reparations.
posted by ilicet on May 21, 2014 - 153 comments

The Marvelous Sugar Baby

An NPR interview with the creator of a 75 foot long Mammy-Sphinx sculpture made entirely of sugar. Award-winning artist Kara Walker's latest work challenges viewers to confront the relationships between American history, racism, slavery, and industrialization. Her exhibition is held in the soon-to-be-demolished, historic Domino Sugar Factory. (New Yorker article) [more inside]
posted by warm_planet on May 16, 2014 - 34 comments

former plantations that have been turned into bed-and-breakfast resorts

Why Aren't Stories Like '12 Years a Slave' Told at Southern Plantation Museums?
Evil is not a word you hear, though, when you visit one of the hundreds of plantation-house museums dotting the South. Instead, these historic sites usually lure tourists with their stunning architecture and wealth of antiques, as the privileged members of the planter-class denied themselves nothing. They had the finest china and silver of the 18th and 19th centuries; European-made furniture like settees and tea caddies; the most expensive rugs, drapes, linens, and clothing that money could buy. Even the toys and kitchen utensils offer a glimpse into the privileged life in the antebellum period, and tours play this aspect up, connecting these objects emotionally to the stories of the white planters. Many of these museums let visitors walk away without considering that all of these exquisite things were accumulated through the violence and forced labor of slavery.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Apr 22, 2014 - 90 comments

The cost of staging a modern World Cup

Qatar has proposed a bold vision of its future in 2022, but at what cost? In September 2013, the Guardian reported that up to 4,000 migrant workers would die during the construction process for Qatar's staging of the football World Cup in 2022. The Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee, an advocacy group representing Nepalese and South Asian migrant workers, estimates that 400 Nepalese have died on Qatari construction sites since 2010. Nepalese make up around 20% of the migrant workforce. In the past two years 450 Indian workers have died on construction sites. [more inside]
posted by MuffinMan on Feb 17, 2014 - 32 comments

The True Story of America's First Black Female Slave Novelist

In 2002 Henry Louis Gates jr. published The Bondwoman's Narrative. It was the first publication of a novel written in the 1850s by a former slave who wrote under the name Hannah Crafts. The original manuscript has been digitized by Yale's Beinecke Library. The book caused a splash at the time, sold well and was reviewed widely, including an essay by Hilary Mantel in the London Review of Books. The identity of Hannah Crafts was uncertain, which cast a slight shadow on its provenance, but Prof. Gregg Hecimovich discovered the writer's true identity. Her name was Hannah Bond and after escaping slavery she became a teacher in New Jersey. Journalist Paul Berman further fills in the story of Colonel Wheeler, the slaveowner whose family was depicted in The Bondwoman's Narrative. Wheeler was the US ambassador to Nicaragua in the 1850s and played a major part in the administration of General Walker, the American who became a short-lived dictator of Nicaragua and tried to set it up as a slave state.
posted by Kattullus on Feb 11, 2014 - 2 comments

Can a slavery system include a middle class?

The truth about the luxury of Qatar Airways [more inside]
posted by armage on Feb 4, 2014 - 24 comments

'To Europe—Yes, but Together With Our Dead'

What happens to a nation that's suffered a great crime? What happens when the wrong can't be made right?
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Jan 28, 2014 - 32 comments

A Little Museum in Each Blog

Each of Historian Barbara Wells Sarudy's six blogs contains a wealth of esoteric treasures: "President John Adams declared, “History is not the Province of the Ladies.” Oh well, I'll give it a try." [more inside]
posted by whimsicalnymph on Jan 5, 2014 - 6 comments

a US presidential slave ownership reference table

Which US presidents owned slaves? [more inside]
posted by threeants on Dec 30, 2013 - 82 comments

Why I Wouldn't See 12 Years a Slave With a White Person

"Very often, black people work to make white people at ease by layering away any unease we ourselves may feel. It is hard work to translate yourself daily to someone else who most likely lives life without ever being fully aware of how their very existence has been the basis for determining what is 'normal' in America and much of the world. And yet this painful and ongoing work of translation is second nature to those of us who have always had to figure out ways to be seen and understood in a world where the white experience is assumed to be the default."
posted by rcraniac on Nov 28, 2013 - 191 comments

Slavery In The UK

"Detectives investigating the case of three women allegedly held as slaves for 30 years in south London have uncovered a "complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control". Last month officers were contacted by Freedom Charity after it received a call from a woman saying she had been held against her will for decades. A Malaysian woman, 69, an Irish woman, 57, and a British woman, 30, were rescued from the house on 25 October. A 67-year-old man and woman were held in Lambeth and bailed until January." More details on the BBC here.
posted by marienbad on Nov 22, 2013 - 41 comments

"Overall, I think that Diamond is like Mao: 70% right and 30% wrong."

Anthropologists weigh in on Jared Diamond's latest: lack of citations, ethnographic carelessness, and the smoothing of complex narratives into quotable fables. The World Until Yesterday has prompted a flurry of commentary from anthropologists unenthusiastic about the physiologist turned evolutionary biologist turned geographer. In a recent London Review of Books, leading political anthropologist James C. Scott doesn't buy Diamond's description of the modern nation-state arising to curtail primitive tribal violence "[i]n a passage that recapitulates the fable of the social contract" given how "slaving was at the very centre of state-making." Anthropologist Alex Golub, who shares Papua New Guinea as a major research site, wrote "Still, it is telling that we live in an age when a member of America’s National Academy of Sciences and one of the world’s foremost public intellectuals has less concern for citations and footnotes than do the contributors to Wikipedia." David Correia pulls no punches in his opinion piece "F*ck Jared Diamond" calling Diamond's resurrection of environmental determinism as racist apologia and his latest book as essentializing primitivism in order to define Western industrialized exceptionalism. [more inside]
posted by spamandkimchi on Nov 19, 2013 - 268 comments

12 Years a Slave

"I'm here because my family went through slavery" - Steve McQueen on 12 Years A Slave, the story of Solomon Northup. ‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mother of George,’ and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin. Before Solomon Northup: Fighting Slave Catchers in New York. The final fate of Solpmon Northup remains unknown. (Previously)
posted by Artw on Oct 20, 2013 - 56 comments

Of Human Bondage

The Walk Free Foundation has released its latest report on the contemporary slave trade, the Global Slavery Index (interactive map). As summarized by Al Jazeera, over 29 million people are in some form of involuntary servitude, ranging from kidnapped fishermen to women forced into prostitution to child brides. The countries with the largest populations of enslaved people include Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. Back in 2012, J. J. Gould wrote on the difficulties in confronting slavery in today's society: In the West, and particularly in the United States, slavery has long settled in the public imagination as being categorically a thing of the past.... It can mean having a harder time recognizing slavery when it's right in front of us.
posted by Cash4Lead on Oct 17, 2013 - 12 comments

United States of America

Warning! The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased, entry for the United States of America
posted by Blasdelb on Sep 29, 2013 - 49 comments

On the Red River

A new critically acclaimed film (96%) is coming out soon 12 Years a Slave (trailer), the true story of Solomon Northup. His memoir is a riveting read (or listen to Louis Gossett, Jr. reading it), but this post is about where Northup was enslaved, a cotton plantation near the Red River, Louisiana. [more inside]
posted by stbalbach on Sep 15, 2013 - 5 comments

The Case Against The Confederacy

Why “Libertarian” Defenses of the Confederacy and “States’ Rights” are Incoherent
There is a strain of libertarian contrarianism that holds that the Confederate States of America were within their “rights” to secede from the Union. Such contrarianism on this particular topic is detrimental to the larger cause of liberty because the logic of this argument relies upon relinquishing individual rights to the whim of the state. Indeed, as there is no legal or moral justification for supporting the Confederacy in the Civil War, it is impossible that there could be a libertarian one.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jul 21, 2013 - 349 comments

The Injured Coast

Teju Cole (previously) live-tweeted on Friday his trip across the Slave Coast from Lagos, Nigeria to Ouidah, Benin.
posted by Cash4Lead on Jul 20, 2013 - 3 comments

Just Run That Escape Plan By Me Again....

"It's almost tragic that the most badass escaped slave story most people know is Django Unchained. Because in real life, not only did slaves frequently escape, but they often did it without help from free whites, and without murdering several hundred people. Instead, what they had was cleverness and the audacity to try ridiculous plans that by all rights should never have worked." [SLCracked but a decent effort]
posted by marienbad on Jul 14, 2013 - 25 comments

The housewife who grew up with monkeys

Was Marina Chapman really brought up by monkeys? (The Guardian), Kidnapped, dumped in the jungle and raised by monkeys (Daily Mail), The Girl with No Name: Author claims she was raised by monkeys (The Star), Strange life of the housewife who grew up with monkeys (Telegraph), Marina Chapman tells her incredible story of survival (Today), Girl who lived with monkeys spins incredible tale (CBC). National Geographic is producing a documentary. [Feral children previously on MeFi - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
posted by stbalbach on Jun 20, 2013 - 25 comments

"Misplaced Honor"

NYT Editorial Filter -- "Now African-Americans make up about a fifth of the military. The idea that today we ask any of these soldiers to serve at a place named for a defender of a racist slavocracy is deplorable; the thought that today we ask any American soldier to serve at a base named for someone who killed United States Army troops is beyond absurd. Would we have a Fort Rommel? A Camp Cornwallis?" [more inside]
posted by bardic on May 27, 2013 - 767 comments

How The South Kept Slaves Until WWII

The horrifying, little-known story of how hundreds of thousands of blacks worked in brutal bondage right up to the middle of the 20th century. It was a crime for for a black man to lack employment and a crime to change jobs without his previous employer's permission. It was a crime to sell the proceeds of his farm to anyone other than the man from whom he rented land. A crime for a black man to speak loudly in the company of a white woman, to walk beside a railroad line, to fail to yield a sidewalk to white people, to sit among whites on a train and, in practice, generally a crime for blacks to be accused of any crime by a white person.
posted by blankdawn on May 18, 2013 - 59 comments

Slavery in the new world from Africa to the Americas.

The blog US Slave collects long-form articles on every aspect of the history of slavery, primarily focussing on African slaves in the USA and their descendents. Among the content there is this biography of Ota Benga, the Congolese Pygmy man who was put on display in the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo, and several posts about Sarah "Saartjie" Baartman, the so-called Hottentot Venus. [more inside]
posted by daisyk on Mar 15, 2013 - 16 comments

"The American Revolution is not a story just for white people."

"We’ve coined a term," said Katrinah Lewis, the actress who typically interprets Lydia. "Post-traumautic slave syndrome." The Washington Post reports on African American actors who interpret the lives of slaves at Colonial Williamsburg.
posted by Snarl Furillo on Mar 11, 2013 - 38 comments

Legacies of British Slave-ownership

Legacies of British Slave-ownership, which went live on February 27, 2013, tracks what became of the twenty million pounds set aside to compensate British slave owners in the Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies (1833). Users have a variety of search options that can yield results according to individuals, businesses, countries, and so on. The site tracks compensated owners through their contributions to the arts, politics, entrepreneurship, and governance; some owners have extensive biographical notes. A number of the site's revelations about slave-owning families and the extent of their compensation have already attracted comment. [more inside]
posted by thomas j wise on Feb 27, 2013 - 26 comments

Slavery was 'an utter violation of capitalism'

The inefficiency of it all ... Here's a great infographic: slavery and cotton in the South in 1860. But if the map is interesting, the article is astonishing. It says only 2 percent of Deep South land produced cotton in 1860 -- and only 13 percent grew any crop at all. You better read that last sentence again.
posted by LonnieK on Feb 6, 2013 - 80 comments

"If I was to die, today or tomorrow, I do not think I would die satisfied till you tell me you will try and marry some good, smart man that will take care of you and the children"

Author Jon Meacham has a new book out on Thomas Jefferson. It is reviewed in the New York Times: Cultivating Control in a Nation’s Crucible
But this book does not address its principal concern, power, until Jefferson has accrued some. When it comes to the force that he wielded as a slaveholder, Mr. Meacham finds ways to suggest that thoughts of abolition would have been premature; that it was not uncommon for white heads of households to be waited on by slaves who bore family resemblances to their masters; and that since Jefferson treated slavery as a blind spot, the book can too.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 3, 2012 - 44 comments

Does success spell doom for Homo sapiens?

State of the Species: Will the unprecedented success of Homo sapiens lead to an unavoidable downfall? [Via]
posted by homunculus on Oct 28, 2012 - 46 comments

FEAR THE ARTICHOKE KING

The History Of New York In 50 Objects (NYT)
posted by The Whelk on Sep 5, 2012 - 29 comments

A photographic essay on modern day Slavery

Lisa Kristine, a photographer, gives a thoughtful and very moving talk on the extent of modern day slavery in this TEDx talk. The photos she shows are absolutely beautiful and the bare-bones stories behind them are exceptionally hard to hear at times. The group she is working with, Free the Slaves, seems to be doing a lot of good work and working on real solutions for the people involved (such as the one example she gives where the slaves that were freed carried on doing the same work, the only work they had ever known, but rent the quarry themselves and are now the recipients of the profits etc). She has published a book with these photos as well and it's available on her website.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop on Aug 15, 2012 - 4 comments

Early abolitionist David Ruggles

In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass wrote of his early days in New York City after his escape from slavery:
Thank Heaven, I remained but a short time in this distressed situation. I was relieved from it by the humane hand of Mr. DAVID RUGGLES. [...] Mr. Ruggles was then very deeply engaged in the memorable Darg case, as well as attending to a number of other fugitive slaves, devising ways and means for their successful escape; and, though watched and hemmed in on almost every side, he seemed to be more than a match for his enemies.
[more inside]
posted by Zed on Aug 9, 2012 - 9 comments

The Cretaceous and the Black Belt

How presidential elections are impacted by a 100 million year old coastline
posted by jjray on Jul 27, 2012 - 25 comments

Interesting aspects of the American Civil War

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, recently touched on a couple of interesting aspects of the American Civil War. First, Racism Against White People briefly looked at how Southern intellectuals argued that Northern whites were of a different race. Then a subthread in the comments on that post spawned an investigation of American Exceptionalism in History and the notion of preserving democracy in the context of the American Civil War. After all, "if a government can be sundered simply because the minority doesn't like the results of an election, can it even call itself a government?" Definitely check out the comments of both posts.
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Jul 8, 2012 - 49 comments

Living in Plantation America

Southern Values Revived: How Our Elites Have Become Worse "It’s been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don’t know is that they’re also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are. Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that’s corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here’s what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now." [more inside]
posted by bookman117 on Jul 2, 2012 - 131 comments

Beautiful Civilization

Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization, the 2008 remake of 1994's Sid Meier's Colonization was met with some hostility over the concept at the outset. Trevor Owens and Rebbeca Mir, contributors to Play the Past, have been making a series of blog posts about the inherently problematic nature of the game. It started with "Sid Meier's Colonization: Is it offensive enough?", next was "if (!isNative()[returnfalse;]: De-People-ing Native Peopls in Sid Meier's Colonization?", then "Guns, Germs and Horses: Cultural Exchange in Sid Meier's Colonization" and, the latest, "Playing at Slavery: Modding Colonization for Authenticity" [more inside]
posted by griphus on May 25, 2012 - 88 comments

We Who Are ABout To Bug Out Salute You

We Who Are About to Bug Out Salute You
Rutherford B. Hayes.... brought the troops home and ended Reconstruction, with the almost unanimous support of the nation’s liberal establishment. They too fought politically against slavery before the Civil War, risked their lives to emancipate its victims, and, too soon, couldn’t wait to bug out of the South.

posted by Joe in Australia on May 7, 2012 - 73 comments

The Broderick-Terry Duel

On September 13, 1859, a former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court shot and killed a U.S. Senator in what has been called the last notable duel in American history. The duel itself can be interpreted as a sort of proxy battle between pro- and anti-slavery groups of the time, and a harbinger of the American Civil War (which would begin a year and half later).
posted by MattMangels on Apr 3, 2012 - 10 comments

Slavery's Last Stronghold

Although officially abolished in 1981, slavery still exists in Mauritania. CNN Special Report includes a twenty-two minute video and offers a look inside a country where an estimated 10 - 20% are still enslaved.
posted by gman on Mar 19, 2012 - 59 comments

Remix my music, please.

Sarah Fimm wants to inspire people to use their creative talents to promote human rights. To that end, she's encouraging people to take portions of her and fellow artists' works Everything Becomes Whole" - music, lyrics, images and music video - to create new presentations focusing attention on ending slavery. [more inside]
posted by grimjeer on Mar 15, 2012 - 18 comments

Four child slaves of mixed-race heritage with pale skin were used in pictures to raise funds

The ‘white’ slave children of New Orleans: Almost immediately after the law came into practice, Northerners and abolitionists set up relief organisations, which battled to establish schools and provide other forms of support – but their resources were limited. They soon discovered it was near-impossible to find sympathy and support in a war-torn and racially-prejudiced county.
posted by nickyskye on Mar 4, 2012 - 11 comments

The Sins of the Fathers

Richard Dawkins on the surreal experience of being the subject of a Sunday Telegraph "gotcha" article.
posted by Artw on Feb 19, 2012 - 167 comments

"...though we may have our differences, we are one people, and we are one nation, united by a common creed."

Founded in 1857, The Atlantic is one of the oldest publications still being produced in the US. They have created a commemorative issue for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War that includes articles published in the magazine over a century ago, an extensive gallery of images, as well as a few essays and analyses by modern writers, including President Obama. Editor's note. (Via: James Fallows' Reddit AMA) [more inside]
posted by zarq on Feb 8, 2012 - 22 comments

Because we can do with some good news

Shyima Hall has been granted US citizenship. [more inside]
posted by Joe in Australia on Dec 18, 2011 - 48 comments

Occupy England

"Asked if he thought he should have been paid, he said: 'I reckon they should have paid me … I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does for Tesco. I had the uniform and I was in the staff canteen. I obviously got access to the food and drinks in the staff canteen … that's what they let you do … but I got nothing else apart from that.'" -- The Guardian on Britain's "Work Experience Programme," which provides thousands of free man-hours to some of the country's largest and most profitable private companies
posted by bardic on Nov 17, 2011 - 69 comments

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