Travelling exhibit spotlights agricultural slavery

    A truck has been parked in the middle of Independence Mall in Philadelphia for two days, inviting people into its back to experience what it’s like to be forced to work on a farm.

    A truck has been parked in the middle of Independence Mall in Philadelphia for two days, inviting people into its back to experience what it’s like to be forced to work on a farm.

    It’s a the centerpiece of a portable museum about agricultural slavery.

    The traveling exhibit operates out the same kind of truck used to transport farm workers, sometimes with their hands and feet in chains to prevent escape. That is according to federal indictments against some Florida growers who have been convicted of holding men in bondage. The exhibit invites spectators to walk inside the covered truck.

    Modern slavery operates differently from slavery of 150 years ago, when men were owned. Now they are held in perpetual debt, and in extreme cases, bound and beaten.

    Tim Safford, touring Independence Mall with his family, says the display makes him think of how he unknowingly is responsible for that abuse.

    Safford:
    They couldn’t pay off debt, so they were handcuffed and locked into their houses. Consumers like myself, who want affordable vegetables, it can come at a human cost. It reminds you of that.

    Safford noticed the exhibit doesn’t address similar bondage arrangements in the sex trade and garment industry. The traveling museum is organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an Florida-based farm worker activist group.

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