gI_90929_Lincoln ChairThese days, we’re used to the image of Abraham Lincoln sitting in a marble chair – at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. But another Lincoln chair is about to capture the public’s attention.

It’s the bentwood Hickory chair that Lincoln was sitting in when he learned that he was nominated to run for president. It’s being auctioned on eBay, along with a dozen documents handwritten and/or signed by Lincoln, and other documents signed by Frederick Douglass, William T. Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant.

Bidding for “The Ultimate Lincoln Collection” begins at $1 million – and Free the Slaves has been chosen to receive 10 percent of the final sale price. See the official press release here from History You Can Own.

“We’re offering a unique opportunity for collectors with a passion for history,” says Seth Kaller, a leading expert in rare historic documents, “beginning with the chair in which Lincoln was sitting when he received the telegram that he had won the 1860 Republican presidential nomination.” This was his favorite seat at the Illinois State Journal, where Lincoln often went to watch the news come in via the newspaper’s telegraph wire, Kaller says.

A detailed description of the collection can be seen on Kaller’s website. It’s one of the most comprehensive collections of Lincolniana in recent memory. It includes a first edition of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, and his 1858 letter opposing the Dred Scott decision, in which a slave sued for his freedom but lost in one of the most infamous cases in U.S. Supreme Court history.

“This collection has several items of great historic and personal importance,” says Dr. James Cornelius, curator at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum.

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The timing of the auction is tied to the 85th Academy Awards. The film Lincoln is nominated in several categories, including best movie, director and actor. Kaller is guaranteeing delivery of the Lincoln chair and documents to the winning bidder in time for an Oscars party. Dr. Cornelius hopes the items will eventually be donated by the winning bidder to the Lincoln library.

Recognizing that slavery still exists, Kaller wants a portion of the auction proceeds to go to an organization that is helping to finish what Lincoln started. Kaller was introduced to Free the Slaves by historian Ron Soodalter, co-author along with FTS Co-founder Kevin Bales, of the book The Slave Next Door.

mtvU backstory art 1There are reasons young people end up in slavery today. We’re all vulnerable to harm, one way or another, at one point or another.

Traffickers spot these weaknesses, and pounce when they see an opening.

The campus video channel mtvU has just launched an amazing social media campaign that visualizes how young people can end up enslaved inside the United States.

The Backstory draws you in to become a central character in the storyline. First, you see provocative online ads, and then you see the painful stories behind those seemingly innocuous posts. Soon, you find out how those ads could have turned someone you know in to a slave.

The Backstory is illustrated through a powerful series of videos featuring dancers from Alvin Ailey II, music scored by Kenna and text read by rapper Talib Kweli.

It’s inspired by real stories, including the book The Slave Next Door by Free the Slaves Co-Founder Kevin Bales and historian Ron Soodalter. The idea for the project started with four students at James Madison University, who answered mtvU’s call for innovative digital tools to raise awareness.

The Backstory asks a central question: what would you do? You have several choices for action. The Backstory is part of mtvU’s Against our Will campaign. Free the Slaves is a partner.

Here are three things you can do today to help fight modern-day slavery.

1. Get Smart. Read-up on the very latest developments in the global movement to end modern day slavery. FTS Co-founder Kevin Bales helps present a situation report on slavery’s global comeback in the December issue of the Atlantic. The article features the stunning photography of Lisa Kristine, who visited FTS projects in Nepal, India and Ghana to document the human face of slavery today. You can see Lisa talk about her experiences on TED. Also, today on the CNN Freedom Project webpage, there’s a great op-ed by David Abramowitz of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), the coalition of leading U.S. anti-slavery groups that includes Free the Slaves. Sign up for the FTS blog RSS feed, so you’ll know when there’s important news, or friend us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Buy FTS books that will deepen your understanding of how slavery today can be ended.

2. Get Active: Contact your U.S. Senators and representative in the U.S. House, and ask that they support reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). This law is the cornerstone of the federal government’s anti-slavery work. The 112th Congress ended last week without renewing this vital commitment to those trapped in modern slavery. We owe it to those victims – and to the many abolitionists who fought and died in the past to outlaw slavery in America – to keep up the fight. A bill to reauthorize the TVPA in the current 113th Congress will be introduced soon. But it’s never too early to let your elected representatives know that this is important. Background on the bill is here. Sign up for FTS newsletters and action alerts so you can stay in the loop.

3. Get Vocal. Share this blog post with your friends, family, coworkers and others. Bring up the subject of modern-day slavery on a coffee break, or at a dinner party, or while you watch the Golden Globes award show Sunday night and the movie Lincoln comes up. (Outlawing slavery didn’t end it. We must finish what Lincoln started.) Let people know that the Free the Slaves website is a valuable repository of facts, maps, history, research papers, films, interviews with slavery survivors, lesson plans for teachers, and more.

Lastly, if you haven’t already done so, please donate to Free the Slaves. Spreading the word that slavery still exists is vital, but so is the innovative community empowerment work that FTS does to help slaves break free and stay free.

If you aren’t able to take action today, no worries. The entire month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month (it began with the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, and it ends on February 1 with the 148th anniversary of the 13th Amendment — which enshrined abolition into the U.S. Constitution).

Thanks for taking initiative today – and beyond!

Jason & Kevin backstage in Myanmar

Jason & Kevin backstage in Myanmar

If you’ve ever wondered how far FTS co-founder Kevin Bales will go to end slavery, Sunday’s anti-trafficking concert in Myanmar will tell you.

He’ll give the shirt off his back to spread the word that SLAVERY SUCKS.

That’s literally what Kevin did for Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, who was ready to perform a first-of-its-kind anti-slavery concern in Myanmar at the Schwedagon Pagoda on Sunday.

In Kevin’s estimation, Jason lacked the proper wardrobe.

Jason describes the experience this week in his online journal:

Moments before taking the stage I ran into Kevin Bales, an economist and hero of mine, whose TED talk introduced modern-day slavery to the social network. I consider Kevin one of the leaders of the ongoing anti-slavery and sustainable-freedom movement and it was seeing him backstage, a long way from California, that I began to experience the important significance of the event. This is a global crisis, and our concert was continuing to bring it into light.

Kevin was wearing a black “slavery sucks” t-shirt and he insisted I wear it during my set. It was already damp and odorous with his sweat from the day’s scorching heat, but I didn’t flinch when he gave it to me. I was honored. He literally took the shirt off his back for me.

Jason performed in SLAVERY SUCKS attire. And the concert was a terrific success. MTV covered it online, and plans to broadcast it next year.

For Jason, it was a profound experience. He writes:

Here were 50 thousand attentive people, observing, raising their hands in the air, shouting freedom! They did everything I invited them to do; dance, play and participate…Still, I never turned my attention away from the real issue. I was there as a messenger, helping to spread peace, prevention tools, and protection from the horrors of human trafficking…Anyone can rise to fame and fill an arena. Anyone can go on tour and impress audiences with their unique sound, catchy lyrics or beautiful voice. It happens every season on the latest re-invent of Star Search. But very few get the opportunity to be a first international artist to sing with tens of thousands in a movement to bring an end to human trafficking. I got to do that here in Myanmar. And it was awesome.

You can read more about Jason’s inner journey in Myanmar in his online journal.

Jason Mraz at Freedom Rocks

Jason Mraz at FTS Freedom Rocks concert 2010 | Amy Graves photo for FTS

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jason Mraz will headline a free outdoor concert in Myanmar this weekend to raise awareness about modern-day slavery and trafficking.

His performance at the base of the Shwedagon pagoda in People’s Square in Yangon is believed to be the first international concert of its kind in Myanmar, according to the Associated Press (AP).

He tells the AP that he has three goals: “educate, empower, engage.”

Jason has been a global ambassador for the modern abolition movement ever since he accompanied Free the Slaves frontline activists in Ghana on a child-slavery rescue mission.

His tearful account of meeting child slavery survivors was captured in the FTS video “The Journey of the Freedom Song.”

“I thought this (slavery) was something that was abolished when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation,” Jason recently told the AP. “But all it did is become hidden from our view. So I signed on, lent my voice, lent my music to the cause.”

Jason performed the “Freedom Song” at the 2010 FTS Freedom Awards in Los Angeles, backed up by energetic singers from the Agape Youth Choir.

Jason hosted a major anti-slavery concert in the Philippines last year, and now he is bringing his unique spirit of optimism to Myanmar, listed by the U.S. State Department as a Tier 3 country in the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, meaning it is one of the world worst hotspots for slavery.

“I’m going there with an enormous amount of gratitude and respect, and I hope we can actually make a difference,” Jason told the AP. “I hope it’s also a testament to the songs. I’ve always wanted my songs to be about healing and self-empowerment.”

Sunday’s Myanmar concert is being organized by MTV, and it will be broadcast internationally next year. It’s funded by the Australian Government’s Agency for International Development (AusAID), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Walk Free, a global movement to end modern-day slavery; and produced in partnership with the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the United Nations Inter-Agency Project Against Human Trafficking (UNIAP) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

FTS co-founder Kevin Bales is in Myanmar now for the show. Watch the FTS blog for his notes on how things went!