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Thomas Rowley

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Constitutional conventions: best practice

Syndicate content The Rights Track
The Rights Track podcast gets the hard facts about the human rights challenges facing the world today and aims to get our thinking about human rights on the right track. The podcast is hosted by Professor Todd Landman, a human rights scholar and champion for the advancement of human rights understanding. In our latest series, we take our podcast on the road to capture the voices, experiences and knowledge of people around the world who are part of the global coalition to end Modern Slavery by 2030. We’ll find out how the work of The Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham is supporting and influencing NGOs, businesses and policy makers as it continues to pursue its world leading research agenda to evidence and support the change needed to achieve that goal. In Series 1, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, Todd interviews leading analysts at the forefront of the latest critical thinking on human rights. Each episode is an insightful, compelling and rigorous interview with academics engaged in systematic human rights research. In Series 2, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, The Rights Track turns its attention to human rights advocates and practitioners involved in the struggle for human rights to learn more about their work and the ways in which academic research is helping them. Series 3 sees our podcast joining the fight to end modern day slavery by 2030. In partnership with the University of Nottingham's Right's Lab research project, we talk with researchers who are providing hard evidence about the scale of the problem and by recommending strategies that can help consign slavery to the history books. Although our interviews focus on often complex research, they have been developed with a much wider audience in mind and we want them to be accessible to anyone with an interest in human rights.
Updated: 55 min 21 sec ago

In Episode 1 of Series 4 of The Rights Track, Todd is in the United States, where he interviews leading slavery experts Professor David Blight from Yale University and Professor John Stauffer from Harvard University about lessons from history that are applicable in today's fight to end modern slavery.

He starts by talking to David Blight about his recently published biography of Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era.


  • David talks about his quest to find out over nearly a decade to understand why Douglas was so steeped in the Old Testament
  • He mentions Old Testament scholars recommended to him including Robert Alter  Walter Bruggemann and Abraham Heschel.
  • He explains how reading those scholars led him to describe Douglass as a Prophet of Freedom


  • David says what Douglass had to say about a host of issues related to issues of inequality still resonates today
  • He goes on to explain that being a successful campaigner who achieved great things by the time he was in his forties he went on to see many of those victories eroded as his life drew to an end - he references the Jim Crow laws
  • Douglass' power lay in his facility with carefully crafted words and prophetic language. He references the Fugitive Slave Crisis, the Dred Scott decision and the black exodus to Kansas
  • David talks about his favourite words from Douglass' second autobiography My Bondage and my Freedom describing how he will continue use his voice, his pen and his vote in the fight against slavery and how he thinks that's all any of us has today to fight slavery.

Todd asks John Stauffer what lessons from history are being harnessed in what's been describes as the 4th wave of an anti-slavery movement


  • John talks about the power of the voice in history and today  (orally and written) - he references the first abolitionist newspaper,  William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator  and the response that drew from John C.Calhoun, a political advocate of slavery and someone credited with 'starting' the American Civil War
  • Todd asks if it's the voices of slaves themselves that are more important or the voices of people who represent slaves - John says it's both
  • John explains that even though there was no internet or social media to help spread anti-slavery messages, the power of public speaking then was as influential as the voices of celebrities today.
  • John says the abolitionists, despite only being 5% of the population, may not have turned people into abolitionists, but they were effective in making people anti-slavery
  • John says that silencing slaves is the weapon of modern day slave owners just as it was more than 100 years ago so that speaking out and bearing witness is the key to mobilising action to end slavery.