Skip to main content

A class discussion about an enslaved African prince in the 1600s has inspired a group of University of Tennessee undergraduate students to help stop modern-day human trafficking.

The students, who are juniors and seniors, have organized a November 17 event to bring awareness to the local sex trafficking industry, its effects on society, and ways to help end modern-day slavery.

The inaugural Human Trafficking on Rocky Top event will be held at 7:00 p.m. in the Toyota Auditorium at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. It is free and open to the public. Local experts will speak, and an involvement fair will follow the presentation.

“What most people do not know is that we have more people enslaved today than at any other time in history. There are children younger than thirteen being taken from their families in this very city, at our own football games, who are being sold to any buyer for sexual favors,” said Sarah Primm, one of the students who helped organize the event.

“To help stop these crimes, we must first learn the truth. We as UT students need to take advantage of the resources and knowledge available to us in order to fight against the atrocity that is human trafficking,” she said.

The event was planned by students in an English 411 class, British Literature 1660–1740, taught by Misty Anderson. Anderson, a Lindsay Young Professor of English and adjunct professor of theater, had her students read “Oroonoko,” Aphra Behn’s 1688 story of an enslaved African prince.

Robert Rennie from the McClung Museum presents a ball and chain shackle (1706), a gun (1702), and a copy of The Wealth of Nations from the museum's special collections to a class studying a 1688 novella about the slave trade.
Robert Rennie presents a ball and chain shackle (1706), a gun (1702), and a copy of The Wealth of Nations from the McClung Museum’s special collections to a class studying a 1688 novella about the slave trade.

After viewing eighteenth-century slavery artifacts at the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, Anderson’s class discussion moved from slave literature to contemporary human trafficking. Some of the students have turned this into part of their final project. They have worked with the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking to provide the content for the November 17 program.

“I’m very, very proud of what they have decided to do with what they have learned. This is what happens in the humanities when we get our students to engage,” said Anderson. “I have been teaching this novel for twenty years, but I have never been asked what I’m going to do about it. That’s the question Amadou Sall asked us, and these students have given a thoughtful, meaningful answer by organizing this event.”

“Thanks to an engaging session at the McClung Museum organized by Robert Rennie, a graduate fellow for academic programs, students were able to examine artifacts in our UT archives, use them to think about the ethical challenges that the novel presents, and then move on to social action in the present moment. They have taken their experience in the classroom out to the world, where they are already making a difference.”

Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking strives to free individuals from injustice and exploitation in East Tennessee. It educates, equips, and empowers the community to recognize the signs of human trafficking, take action to end this modern-day slavery, and connect victims with restorative resources.

An estimated twenty-seven million people are enslaved around the world today, which is more than any other time in history. Human trafficking is the second most lucrative criminal industry worldwide after drug trafficking, bringing in approximately $32 billion annually. Today’s slaves are forced into labor, service, or sex slavery to make money for their owners.


Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,