On this day May 18, 1652

Rhode Island passes the first law in North America making slavery illegal. Slavery is a form of forced labor in which people are considered to be, or treated as, the property of others.

Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to receive compensation (such as wages).

Evidence of slavery predates written records, and has existed to varying extents, forms and periods in almost all cultures and continents. In some societies, slavery existed as a legal institution or socio-economic system, but today it is formally outlawed in nearly all countries. Nevertheless, the practice continues in various forms around the world.

Freedom from slavery is an internationally recognized human right. Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

The English word slave derives – through Old French and Medieval Latin – from the medieval word for Slavic, a people of Central and Eastern Europe, many of whom were sold in slavery after conquest by the Holy Roman Empire.

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