Anti-Slavery International

Coordinates: 51°28′6.17″N 0°7′3.09″W / 51.4683806°N 0.1175250°W / 51.4683806; -0.1175250
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Anti-Slavery International
Founded1839; 185 years ago (1839)
HeadquartersLondon, SW9
United Kingdom
Region served
Jasmine O'Connor

Anti-Slavery International, founded as the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1839,[1][2] is an international non-governmental organisation, registered charity[3] and advocacy group, based in the United Kingdom. It is the world's oldest international human rights organisation, and works exclusively against slavery and related abuses.[4]

In 1909, the society merged with the Aborigines' Protection Society to form the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' Protection Society,[2] whose prominent member was Kathleen Simon, Viscountess Simon. It became the Anti-Slavery Society in July 1947,[5] and from 1956 to 1990 it was named the Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human Rights. In 1990 it was renamed Anti-Slavery International for the Protection of Human Rights, and in 1995 relaunched as Anti-Slavery International.[6]

It owes its origins to the radical element of an older organisation also commonly referred to as the "Anti-Slavery Society", the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions, which had substantially achieved abolition of slavery in the British Empire by August 1838.[1]

The new British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was created to campaign against the practice of slavery in other countries.


Isaac Crewdson (Beaconite) writerSamuel Jackman Prescod - Barbadian JournalistWilliam Morgan from BirminghamWilliam Forster - Quaker leaderGeorge Stacey - Quaker leaderWilliam Forster - Anti-Slavery ambassadorJohn Burnet -Abolitionist SpeakerWilliam Knibb -Missionary to JamaicaJoseph Ketley from GuyanaGeorge Thompson - UK & US abolitionistJ. Harfield Tredgold - British South African (secretary)Josiah Forster - Quaker leaderSamuel Gurney - the Banker's BankerSir John Eardley-WilmotDr Stephen Lushington - MP and JudgeSir Thomas Fowell BuxtonJames Gillespie Birney - AmericanJohn BeaumontGeorge Bradburn - Massachusetts politicianGeorge William Alexander - Banker and TreasurerBenjamin Godwin - Baptist activistVice Admiral MoorsonWilliam TaylorWilliam TaylorJohn MorrisonGK PrinceJosiah ConderJoseph SoulJames Dean (abolitionist)John Keep - Ohio fund raiserJoseph EatonJoseph Sturge - Organiser from BirminghamJames WhitehorneJoseph MarriageGeorge BennettRichard AllenStafford AllenWilliam Leatham, bankerWilliam BeaumontSir Edward Baines - JournalistSamuel LucasFrancis Augustus CoxAbraham BeaumontSamuel Fox, Nottingham grocerLouis Celeste LecesneJonathan BackhouseSamuel BowlyWilliam Dawes - Ohio fund raiserRobert Kaye Greville - BotanistJoseph Pease - reformer in India)W.T.BlairM.M. Isambert (sic)Mary Clarkson -Thomas Clarkson's daughter in lawWilliam TatumSaxe Bannister - PamphleteerRichard Davis Webb - IrishNathaniel Colver - Americannot knownJohn Cropper - Most generous LiverpudlianThomas ScalesWilliam JamesWilliam WilsonThomas SwanEdward Steane from CamberwellWilliam BrockEdward BaldwinJonathon MillerCapt. Charles Stuart from JamaicaSir John Jeremie - JudgeCharles Stovel - BaptistRichard Peek, ex-Sheriff of LondonJohn SturgeElon GalushaCyrus Pitt GrosvenorRev. Isaac BassHenry SterryPeter Clare -; sec. of Literary & Phil. Soc. ManchesterJ.H. JohnsonThomas PriceJoseph ReynoldsSamuel WheelerWilliam BoultbeeDaniel O'Connell - "The Liberator"William FairbankJohn WoodmarkWilliam Smeal from GlasgowJames Carlile - Irish Minister and educationalistRev. Dr. Thomas BinneyEdward Barrett - Freed slaveJohn Howard Hinton - Baptist ministerJohn Angell James - clergymanJoseph CooperDr. Richard Robert Madden - IrishThomas BulleyIsaac HodgsonEdward SmithSir John Bowring - diplomat and linguistJohn EllisC. Edwards Lester - American writerTapper Cadbury - Businessmannot knownThomas PinchesDavid Turnbull - Cuban linkEdward AdeyRichard BarrettJohn SteerHenry TuckettJames Mott - American on honeymoonRobert Forster (brother of William and Josiah)Richard RathboneJohn BirtWendell Phillips - AmericanJean-Baptiste Symphor Linstant de Pradine from HaitiHenry Stanton - AmericanProf William AdamMrs Elizabeth Tredgold - British South AfricanT.M. McDonnellMrs John BeaumontAnne Knight - FeministElizabeth Pease - SuffragistJacob Post - Religious writerAnne Isabella, Lady Byron - mathematician and estranged wifeAmelia Opie - Novelist and poetMrs Rawson - Sheffield campaignerThomas Clarkson's grandson Thomas ClarksonThomas MorganThomas Clarkson - main speakerGeorge Head Head - Banker from CarlisleWilliam AllenJohn ScobleHenry Beckford - emancipated slave and abolitionistUse your cursor to explore (or Click "i" to enlarge)
A painting of the 1840 World's Anti-Slavery Convention. Use a cursor to see who is who.[7]


Buxton Memorial Fountain, celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834, in Victoria Tower Gardens, Millbank, Westminster, London

The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, founded in 1787, also referred to as the Abolition Society, was responsible for achieving abolition of the international slave trade, when the British Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act 1807.

The Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions, later known as the (London) Anti-slavery Society, was founded in 1823 and was committed to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, which was substantially achieved in 1838 under the terms of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.


With abolition of slavery throughout the British dominions achieved, British abolitionists in the Agency Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society considered that a successor organisation was needed to tackle slavery worldwide. Largely under the guidance of English activist Joseph Sturge, the committee duly formed a new society, British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society on 17 April 1839,[8][9] which worked to outlaw slavery in other countries. It became widely known as the Anti-Slavery Society, as had the earlier society.

The first secretary was John Harfield Tredgold, the first treasurer, George William Alexander of Stoke Newington. Along with the founding committee, which included the Anglican Thomas Fowell Buxton, the Quaker William Allen, and the Congregationalist Josiah Conder, they organised the first World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840,[10] that attracted delegates from around the world (including from the United States of America, in the South of which slavery was at times referred to as "our peculiar institution") to the Freemasons' Hall, London on 12 June 1840. Many delegates were notable abolitionists, with Thomas Clarkson the key speaker, and the image of the meeting was captured in a remarkable painting that still hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London.[11] The convention had been advertised as a "whole world" convention, but the delegates representing anti-slavery societies in the United States included several women, among them Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who later were instrumental in the movement for women's rights. Convention leaders refused to seat the women delegates from America, and prominent male abolitionists such as Thomas Knight were outraged. He went on to form his own society.[citation needed]

In the 1850s, under Louis Chamerovzow, the society helped John Brown write and publish his autobiography a decade before the American Civil War ended slavery in the United States.

The second secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, appointed under the honorary secretaries Joseph Cooper and Edmund Sturge, was the Rev. Aaron Buzacott (1829–81), the son of a South Seas missionary also named Aaron Buzacott. With American slavery abolished in 1865, Buzacott worked closely with Joseph Cooper in researching and publishing work designed to help abolish slavery in elsewhere, particularly in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

20th century[edit]

Before World War II[edit]

At the beginning of the 20th century Anti-Slavery Society campaigned against slavery practices perpetrated in the Congo Free State by King Leopold II of Belgium. It was the first campaign in history that used photography to document the abuses (photographs were taken by the missionary Alice Seeley Harris). The campaign eventually helped bring an end to Leopold's tyranny.[citation needed]

In 1909, the society merged with the Aborigines' Protection Society[12] to form the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' Protection Society. Kathleen Simon, Viscountess Simon was a prominent member and stalwart of the society.[13][14][15]

In the 1920s, the Society helped end the indentured labour system in the British colonies after campaigning against the use of Indian and Chinese "coolies". In 1921 Played a pivotal role in ending the activities of the Peruvian Amazon Company, which was using indigenous slave labour in rubber production.

The organisation also successfully lobbied for the League of Nations inquiry into slavery, which resulted in the 1926 Slavery Convention that obliged all ratifying states to end slavery.[citation needed] When the League of Nations collected information of slavery on a global level in 1922-1923, Anti-Slavery International and the Swiss Bureau international pour la défense des indigènes (International Bureau for the Defense of the Native Races, BIDI) were among the most important participants in it.[16] Following the investigation, the League founded the Temporary Slavery Commission (TSC) in June 1924. The TSC filed their report on 1925 with the recommendation to outlaw the institution of legal cattle slavery and slave trade, [17] which resulted in the 1926 Slavery Convention.

In 1932 the Committe of Experts on Slavery was established to investigate the effeciency of the 1926 Slavery Convention,[18] which in turn resulted in the establishment of the permanent Advisory Committee of Experts on Slavery (ACE).[19] The global investigation of the occurrence of slavery and slave trade performed by the Advisory Committee of Experts on Slavery (ACE) of the League of Nations between 1934 and 1939 was interupted by the outbreak of the World War II, but it was the foundation for the work against slavery performed by the UN after the war.[20]

In 1944, a Journalist James Ewing Ritchie issued a paper to the society on sugar trade and slavery.[10]

After World War II[edit]

Between 1945 and 1962, the Anti-Slavery Society actively fought to end the ongoing Red Sea slave trade and the slavery in the Arabian Peninsula, and built allies across the world and in the United states to achieve its goal until slavery in Saudi Arabia was finally abolished in 1962.[21]

When the League of Nations was succeeded by the United Nations (UN) after the end of the World War II, Greenidge of the Anti-Slavery International worked for the UN to continue the investigation of global slavery conducted by the ACE of the League, and in February 1950 the Ad hoc Committee on Slavery of the United Nations was inaugurated.[22] By the 1950s, legal chattel slavery and slave trade was formally abolished by law in almost the entire world, with the exception of the Arabian Peninsula. Chattel slavery was still legal in Saudi Arabia, in Yemen, in the Trucial States and in Oman, while slavery in Qatar was abolished in 1952, and slaves were supplied for the Arabian Peninsula by the Red Sea slave trade.

The UN Committee on Slavery presented its raport of global slavery to the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 1951; it was published in 1953, and a Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery was written in 1954, and introduced in 1956.[23]

The Anti Slavery Society actively campaigned against the slavery and slave trade in the Arabian Peninsula from the conclusion of World War II until the 1970s, and particularly publicized Saudi Arabia's central role in 20th-century chattel Slavery within the United Nations, but their efforts was long opposed by the lack of support from London and Washington.[24] The British Foreign Office's internal reports noted an upswing in the slave trade to Saidu Arabia after WII, but preferred to turn a blind eye to it to avoid international exposure of their own Gulf Sheikh allies' complicity in the slave trade.[24]

The US Eisenhower administration sought to undermine the Bricker Amendment by a retreat from the UN, and made Saudi Arabia a cornerstone of the Eisenhower Doctrine, and therefore abstained from the United Nations Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery.[21] The British Anti Slavery Society failed to pass stricter enforcements at the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on Slavery, but the issue started to attract international attention.[25]

When President Kennedy took office, the issue of slavery within the US ally Saudi Arabia had caused growing domestic and international attention and caused damage to the Kennedy administration's liberal world-order rhetoric and the US-Saudi partnership, and Kennedy pressed Saudi leaders to "modernize and reform" if they wished US military assistance during the Yemeni Civil War.[21] President Kennedy wished to strengthen the UN, which in turn also strengthened the long going abolition campaign of the British Anti Slavery Society within the UN and gave it gravitas.[25]

The Kennedy administration also experienced international pressure from influential secular Middle East regional leaders like Gamal Abdul Nasser, as well as from the newly decolonization African states, whose own citizens were the most common victims of the slave trade to the Arabian Peninsula,[25] and whose good will was necessary Kennedy's anti Soviet New Frontier agenda in the Global South.[26] The Kennedy administration therefore put pressure on Saudi Arabia to introduce "modernization reforms", a request which was heavily directed against slavery.[26]

In November 1962, Faisal of Saudi Arabia finally prohibited the owning of slaves in Saudi Arabia, followed by the abolition of slavery in Yemen in 1962, slavery in Dubai 1963 and slavery in Oman in 1970.

From 1947 to 1956, it was called the Anti-Slavery Society, and from 1956 to 1990 the Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human Rights. In 1990, it was renamed Anti-Slavery International for the Protection of Human Rights, and in 1995 Anti-Slavery International.[6]

Anti-Slavery International was one of the original supporters of the "End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking" campaign (ECPAT), and helped set up the UK branch in the 1990s. It also helped to organise the 1998 Global March against Child Labour, which helped lead to the adoption of a new International Labour Organization Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour in 1999.[15]

21st century: Modern-day slavery[edit]

In the 21st century, it worked with Nepalese NGO INSEC to secure Government backing to abolish the Kamaiya form of bonded labour; in 2003 with local NGO Timidria conducted a survey that led to the criminalisation of slavery in Niger, and lobbied the Brazilian government to introduce a National Plan for the Eradication of Slavery.[citation needed] Two years later ASI organised a major campaign on child camel jockeys in the Gulf States, which influenced the UAE's decision to rescue and repatriate up to 3,000 child camel jockeys.

In the UK, it successfully lobbied to make trafficking of sexual and labour exploitation a criminal offence in 2004.[citation needed]

In 2008, it was amongst groups that supported a former slave, Hadijatou Mani, in obtaining the verdict of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court that found the state of Niger guilty of failing to protect her from slavery. The ruling set a legal precedent with respect to the obligations of states to protect its citizens from slavery[27]

In June 2010, following the campaign by Anti-Slavery International and Liberty the UK Parliament introduced a criminal offence of forced labour in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.[citation needed] In 2010 the organisation also exposed the routine use of the forced labour of girls and young women in the manufacture of garments in Southern India for Western high streets, prompting, eventually, business and international civil society efforts to end the practice.

Anti-Slavery lobbied the UK government to sign up to an EU anti-trafficking law to protect the victims and secure justice for people who have been trafficked (2011). It also played a big part in lobbying the International Labour Organization to adopt a Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers in June 2011.[citation needed]

In 2021, Anti-Slavery International has pressured businesses and governments to address conditions in the Xinjiang cotton industry.[28]

Human trafficking[edit]

Human trafficking is the illegal transportation of kidnapped people, including children, across international borders in order to put them into slavery at the destination. This form of modern slavery is one of the most common and may affect the most people: it is estimated that between 500,000 and 800,000 victims enter the trade each year.

The International Labour Organization[29] estimates that, by their definitions, over 40 million people are in some form of slavery today. 24.9 million people are in forced labor, of whom 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities. 15.4 million people are in forced marriage.

Anti-Slavery International points to the lack of enforcement of existing laws as a barrier to stopping human trafficking. Discrimination on the basis of social status, religion, ethnicity, gender and immigration status operate as additional barriers.[30] The organization joined more than 180 other groups in a campaign to pressure retailers such as Nike, Apple and Gap to stop using forced labour of Uighurs in their factories located in China.[31]


Anti-Slavery International is the world's oldest international human rights organisation, and bases its work on the United Nations treaties against slavery. It has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and observer status at the International Labour Organization. It is a non-religious, non-political independent organisation. It works closely with partner organisations from around the world to tackle all forms of slavery.


The society published The Anti-Slavery Reporter from 1839, taking over from the earlier organisation (named the London Anti-slavery Society in its last year of existence[32]).[33]

The journal merged with the Aborigines' Friend to form the Anti-Slavery Reporter and Aborigines' Friend in 1909,[33] when the BFASS merged with the Aborigines' Protection Society.[34]

Anti-Slavery Award[edit]

Anti-Slavery International instituted the Anti-Slavery Award in 1991 to draw attention to the continuing problem of slavery in the world today and to provide recognition for long-term, courageous campaigning by organisations or individuals in the countries most affected.

  • 1991: Bonded Labour Liberation Front (India)
  • 1992: Ricardo Rezende
  • 1993: End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT)
  • 1994: Edwin Paraison
  • 1995: Harry Wu
  • 1996: Regional Indigenous Organisation of Atalaya (OIRA)
  • 1997: Pureza Lopes Loiola
  • 1998: Cheïkh Saad Bouh Kamara
  • 1999: Vivek and Vidyullata Pandit
  • 2000: George Omona
  • 2001: Association for Community Development (ACD)
  • 2002: Backward Society Education (BASE)
  • 2003: Vera Lesko
  • 2004: Timidria
  • 2005: Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, (Visayan Forum Foundation)
  • 2006: James Aguer Figueira
  • 2007: Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)[35]
  • 2009: SOS Esclaves
  • 2010: Justice 4 Domestic Workers
  • 2012: Temedt, a social movement in Mali

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sharman, Anne-Marie, ed. (1993). "Anti-Slavery Reporter". The Anti-Slavery Reporter. 13 (8). London: Anti-Slavery International.
  2. ^ a b "[Search name authorities]: British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society [Authority record]". Library of Congress Authorities. Library of Congress. 2 December 2020. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  3. ^ "Anti-Slavery International, registered charity no. 1049160". Charity Commission for England and Wales. accessed 26 April 2024
  4. ^ "Anti-Slavery International: UNESCO Education". 21 May 2011. Archived from the original on 21 May 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2024.
  5. ^ "[Search name authorities]: Anti-slavery Society (Great Britain) [Authority record – click on Heading IXX)]". Library of Congress Authorities. Library of Congress. 2 December 2020. Retrieved 3 December 2020. changed from Anti-slavery and Aborigines Protection Society, July 1947...British Library name authority is Anti-slavery Society; [with] reference from Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human Rights
  6. ^ a b Kaye, Mike (2005). 1807–2007: Over 200 years of campaigning against slavery (PDF). Anti-Slavery International. p. [i]. ISBN 0-900918-61-6.
  7. ^ Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, National Portrait Gallery, London
  8. ^ "About Anti-Slavery International". 26 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Patricia Hollis, Ed. (1974). Pressure from without in early Victorian England. Pub. Edward Arnold p.39. ISBN 9780713157307
  10. ^ a b James Ewing Ritchie (1944). "Thoughts on Slavery and Cheap Sugar". Retrieved 27 April 2024.
  11. ^ "The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840". National Portrait Gallery, London. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  12. ^ Anti-slavery and Aborigines Protection Society (Great Britain). (1909). The Anti-slavery and Aborigines Protection Society: being the amalgamation, effected on 1st July 1909, of the British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society and the Aborigines Protection Society (Ebook). WorldCat catalogue entry only. Anti-slavery and Aborigines Protection Society. OCLC 231587915.
  13. ^ Pennybacker, Susan D. (2009). From Scottsboro to Munich: Race and Political Culture in 1930s Britain. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691088280. (Chapter 3, Lady Kathleen Simon and Antislavery, pages 103–145)
  14. ^ Matera, M. (2015). Black London: The Imperial Metropolis and Decolonization in the Twentieth Century. California World History Library. University of California Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-520-28430-2. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Our history". Anti-Slavery International. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  16. ^ Miers, S. (2003). Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem. USA: AltaMira Press. 100-121
  17. ^ Miers, S. (2003). Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem. USA: AltaMira Press. 120-121
  18. ^ Miers, S. (2003). Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem. USA: AltaMira Press. 197-215
  19. ^ Miers, S. (2003). Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem. Storbritannien: AltaMira Press. p. 216
  20. ^ Miers, S. (2003). Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem. Storbritannien: AltaMira Press. p. 294
  21. ^ a b c DeAntonis, Nicholas J. (2021). Emancipating "The Unfortunates": The Anti-slavery Society, the United States, the United Nations, and the Decades-Long Fight to Abolish the Saudi Arabian Slave Trade AAI28499257 (PhD thesis). Fordham University.
  22. ^ Miers, S. (2003). Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem. Storbritannien: AltaMira Press. p. 323-324
  23. ^ Miers, S. (2003). Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem. Storbritannien: AltaMira Press. p, 326
  24. ^ a b DeAntonis, 2021. p. 3
  25. ^ a b c DeAntonis, 2021. p. 4-5
  26. ^ a b DeAntonis, 2021. p. 17
  27. ^ Walker, Peter; agencies (27 October 2008). "Niger guilty in landmark slavery case". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  28. ^ SUTHERLAND, EMILY (2 March 2021). "Are you selling China's slave cotton?". Drapers. Retrieved 13 July 2021.
  29. ^ Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage, International Labour Organization, 19 September 2017
  30. ^ Darnell, Christie (29 July 2020). "Will coronavirus thwart global efforts to end human trafficking?". Reuters. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  31. ^ "Apple and Nike urged to cut 'China Uighur ties'". BBC News. 23 July 2020. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  32. ^ "[Search name authorities]: "Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions"". Library of Congress Authorities. 2 December 2020. Retrieved 3 December 2020. (Click on the link labelled "Heading (1XX)" for further detail)
  33. ^ a b "The Anti-slavery reporter / under the sanction of the British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society [1846–1909] [Catalogue entry]". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 5 December 2020. New ser., vols. 3–8 (1855–1860) include the 16th–21st annual reports of the British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society. The 22nd–24th annual reports are appended to v. 9-11 (1861–1863)...Volume title pages for 1846–1852 read: The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter.
  34. ^ "British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society [Authority record]". Library of Congress Authorities. Library of Congress. 2 December 2020. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  35. ^ "Awards winners". Anti-Slavery International. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009.
  • Anti-Slavery International. Anti-Slavery International and Adam Matthew Publications. 2001.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

51°28′6.17″N 0°7′3.09″W / 51.4683806°N 0.1175250°W / 51.4683806; -0.1175250