President Carter Visit to CIW Modern-Day Slavery Museum

President Carter Visit to CIW Modern-Day Slavery Museum
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
(photos by Emiko Soltis)

President Carter arrived — in full motorcade — at the end of a long-day for both the President and the museum crew. But despite a schedule that would exhaust a man half his age, the President arrived with the unmistakable, and undiminished, smile and personal touch that were the trademark of his long and distinguished political career.

And after some brief hello’s, he went straight to work, examining in detail the exhibits that outline the history of chattel slavery and post-Civil War forced labor in Florida. In the process he demonstrated some impressive knowledge of North Florida geography, which makes some sense as the agricultural labor history of North Florida has long been closely tied to that of South Georgia.

Then it was time to head inside the museum, where President Carter was given a personal tour of the most recent federal prosecutions for forced labor in Florida by the CIW’s Anti-Slavery Coordinator, Laura Germino.

Laura, who herself has been involved in six of the seven prosecutions featured in the museum, provided details and context on the prosecutions that went beyond those included in the exhibits.

Finally, it was back outside again to hear more about the solution to modern-day slavery — the Campaign for Fair Food — from still more CIW members and allies, including Oscar Otzoy (shown here shaking hands with the president) and Jordan Buckley (left) who are part of the docent crew staffing the museum on its big Spring Tour.

Oscar was joined by fellow museum docent and CIW member Cruz Salucio in presenting President Carter with an original photo commemorating his role in helping bring about the long-sought-after dialogue with Florida tomato growers that ended in last November’s historic accord with the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange. The caption on the photo, which President Carter is seen reading here, states:

“Lucas Benitez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Reggie Brown of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange sign their historic agreement on November 16th, 2010, ending 15 years of conflict between Florida farmworkers and the state’s tomato industry.”

Before leaving, President Carter took a few minutes to take some group pictures with CIW members and allies…

… and to share a few personal reflections as well, reflections drawn on his family’s experience on South Georgia farms, experience that included his own time spent picking tomatoes and watermelons. It was that experience that made it possible for him to know — not understand, but know — that work in the fields is already too hard as it is, that to add the indignity of forced labor, wage theft, and even physical violence to farm work is to commit an unpardonable violation of another human being’s rights.And so the visit ended, all too soon, but to the satisfaction and enjoyment of all, including, from his expression caught here just before leaving, President Carter himself.