Farmworkers' Slavery Museum Hits the Road

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Coalition of Immokalee Workers


Fresh from stops in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall and at the State Department, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' well-traveled Modern-Day Slavery Museum is heading up the Eastern Seaboard. Centered around a tomato truck nearly identical to one in which slaves were locked at night in a scenario brought to light in a 2008 legal case, it will be visiting Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Providence, Boston, and a dozen other cities along the route between now and August 16. (Click here for a schedule and contact information.)

I visited the museum twice last winter, once in February when it was being assembled in Immokalee, a city of migrant workers in southern Florida, and once in April while it was touring the state. The museum has the sort of exhibits one would expect of a slavery museum: chains, pistols, a blood-soaked shirt worn by someone who was beaten for not working hard enough.

What is not expected is that these are not relics from the 1800s, but rather from cases involving more than 1,000 slaves freed by Florida peace officers (often with the coalition's help) over the past dozen years or so. Some of those ex-slaves acted as consultants to ensure that the museum accurately reflected the conditions under which they were forced to work.

The museum has been endorsed by many leading human rights and anti-slavery organizations, including Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International.

Check the above schedule to see when the museum will pull into an area near you. It is well worth a visit, and only takes about 15 minutes. It's time well spent. I guarantee you will never feel the same about winter tomatoes and oranges afterward.

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Barry Estabrook is a former contributing editor at Gourmet magazine. He is the author of the recently released Tomatoland, a book about industrial tomato agriculture. He blogs at politicsoftheplate.com. More

Barry Estabrook was formerly a contributing editor at Gourmet magazine. Stints working on a dairy farm and commercial fishing boat as a young man convinced him that writing about how food was produced was a lot easier than actually producing it. He is the author of the recently released Tomatoland, a book about industrial tomato agriculture. He lives on a 30-acre tract in Vermont, where he gardens and tends a dozen laying hens, and his work also appears at politicsoftheplate.com.
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