The charity Anti-Slavery International estimates that 40 million people are trapped in slavery worldwide today. Slavery as an institution can take many forms, but the best-known example is the Transatlantic slave trade, which operated from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. In this period, millions of Africans were shipped across the Atlantic in terrible conditions. Many ended up working on plantations growing crops like sugar or cotton, where they were viewed as the legal property of others, with no human rights. Indeed, plantation-owners, called planters, were renowned for their brutality. The horrors of slavery, and the importance of slave labour in economic terms, has led to calls for reparations.
Reparations are a type of compensation payment, usually in response to warfare or human rights abuses. The term originally referred to compensation paid by one state to another — a nation that had lost a war would pay compensation to the victor to cover the costs of the war.
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