Slavery is the practice of forced labor and restricted liberty. It is also a regime where one class of people - the slave owners - could force another - the slaves - to work and limit their liberty. Throughout history, some forms of slavery existed as punishment for committing crimes or to pay off debts. In the United States, individuals were forced into slavery, born into slavery, and were slaves for life based on their race. Slaves were recognized as property or objects of the slave owners. Slavery was widely accepted worldwide, and many countries gained their capital from the practice of slavery, especially from the triangular trade among Europe, Africa, and America. The United States abolished slavery through the 13th Amendment after the Civil War. While the practice of slavery is no longer legal, it still does exist. According to the 18 U.S. Code § 1583, individuals may be fined or be imprisoned for life if they kidnap, carry away, or use any other method to hold someone against their will.

See also: human trafficking, sexual slavery

[Last updated in May of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]