Overheard on CNN.com: Story on slavery in Mauritania inspires readers to seek action
In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery.
March 19th, 2012
01:24 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Story on slavery in Mauritania inspires readers to seek action

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

CNN's John D. Sutter and Edythe McNamee traveled to Mauritania to help tell the heartbreaking story of slavery that persists to this day. Their project, Slavery's last stronghold, illustrates both the horrors experienced by enslaved people and the reasons it continues even after being officially abolished by the country.

The CNN Freedom Project: Ending modern-day slavery

In a separate blog post, readers commented about the story. It was clear from the conversation that many were strongly affected.

Karen: "I must say this is piece was presented extremely well. Kudos to the design team, reporters, photographers, editors and CNN, but most importantly to those who boldly spoke out and have assisted those in need. The presentation left only one question: What can we do to help?"

Sutter compiled a post with suggestions of where to send donations and how to get involved. CNN iReport is also collecting messages of hope for a school of escaped slaves in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott.

Some readers said they hoped to work toward bettering the lives of others.

Paula Blose: "Slavery is a blight on human behavior. They are people, not animals! I get angry that anyone could treat others in the way that has been reported here. This article is well-written, well-researched, and makes the reader feel the pain of these people. Shine the light on the indifference and apathy of that government. Big changes are made by few people, history shows us that. Well done. May change follow. I am in school for Human Services and hope to work with World Vision Africa one day. Food, shelter, clean water, and decent treatment for all individuals; whether the poorest of the poor or those who have plenty, may it be so."

Many readers indicated that awareness is a first step.

Abdou: "This article is just one side of the reality. I am from Mauritania and I witnessed the condition in which the slaves live. There are no words that can express this sad reality in the 21st century. I am positive that the law voted to eradicate slavery will not be effective because of the lack of pressure from the international community."

John from Mass.: "Abdou, I do agree but, tonight CNN put your country and its plight out there in the national news, and hopefully, its a start. Before CNN's broadcast, I never even heard of your country. Now, millions have!"

Some of the comments came from people who had traveled to Mauritania and witnessed the situation firsthand.

alessandro biglioli: "I was In Mauritania in the '90s. I distinctly remember meeting a white Moor on a horse followed by a black man on an ass in the middle of the desert. We asked him for directions and to our surprise and disgust the black man hurried down from his donkey, went on his fours and the Moor descended from the horse using the black man back as a stool. I remember being speechless. The Moor was polite and helpful and when the conversation ended the scene repeated, the black man went again on his fours and the moor used him as a stool again to go back on his horse. I will never forget the scene as long as I live. We were all left breathless ... slavery was already illegal, so we tried to report the situation at the next government post. They told us it was probably a joke they played on us and they laughed ..."

This commenter vowed to share the story with students.

eviewg: "First, amazing article. Second, as a teacher, I have always held the belief that education not only opens up opportunities to people, but also opens their mind. I'm reading this article to my class ... and I'm a science/math teacher, to show my students how lucky they are to be in born and living in this country (America)."

There were many other comments from readers who were shocked by what they were reading. What do you think? Let us know your take in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Sound off on video via CNN iReport, or share a message of hope.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Africa • Overheard on CNN.com • World
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. kim

    The world has come so far but when you read stories like this you see how far we yet to go.

    March 19, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Portland tony

    I think when we as a nation can stop the injustice, cruelty and bigotry in our own backyard is the time for us to begin tell other people and societies how to live their lives. Slavery is wrong, but so are lots of things in this world. Your commenters struck me naive and childish. In a world Where societies allow their citizens to sell their own body parts for their child's education. Where countries like Palestine or Iraq or Afghanistan have had generations grow up just
    knowing the despair of war, death and destruction. Yes stop slavery, but save those who are worse off first.

    March 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. banasy©

    Having read the entire story, I am thunderstruck that this kind of thing still exists.
    They are not asking for troops, they are not asking for anything except that the world be aware that this exists.
    Thanks to CNN, I am now aware of this.
    This is a different sort of war.
    This war doesn't have any sort of end in sight.
    Slavery, and being at the whim of a cruel master, is every bit as dispairing as any other war.
    Feeling empathetic toward other people is neither naive nor childish, but an emotion that seems to be sorely lacking in an increasingly desensitized society.
    One problem is not greater or lesser than the other problem; they ALL need to be remedied.

    March 19, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Mary

    No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.
    A slave owner's quote in this story
    "One must really have in mind that when one is born into a certain environment, it is considered the right one — just and fair.”
    But one teacher set him on the path to truth when I had gone to a library picked up a book at random read the idea that
    Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.
    “I started to ask myself if lies were coming out of this book,” he told us, “or if they were rather coming out of my very own culture.”
    We also learn that the women in this article was a slave at a very young age and didn't even know it.

    Both Slave owners and Slaves being blinded by obvious lies told to them.

    March 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    Is the story about the human footstool by Alessandro Biglioli true?
    It is unbelievable to me. How could anyone in this century behave that way?
    Trying to understand, I imagined myself in the position of owning a slave.
    Even if I "owned" a person, I can't imagine treating him that way.
    These people live on a different planet.

    March 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • banasy©

      You should read "Slavery's Last Stronghold".
      It is beyond horrifying, JIF.
      The footstool story is mild, compared to others related in the article.

      March 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Portland tony

    I really don't know about this human footstool drama. If the man on the horse were indeed the massa, and he was perhaps incapacitated (old), just how in in the hell is he supposed to get off and on on his horse? Perhaps the "slave" or servant or friend was making a good living and his family had a good home in exchange for taking care of the old man!
    When you were.... say in the service or starting out with your first job....ever have to do something that you thought no human should ever have to do?

    March 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • banasy©

      Oh, for heaven"s sake, Tony!
      How about stirrups?
      How about a hand up?
      Did you read the story "Slavery's Last Stronghold"?
      What is going on here isn NOT honoring the elderly.

      One woman in the story had one of her children killed IN FRONT OF her by her master, because he thought having the baby on her back was slowing her down.
      Another woman was thrown into back of a pickup truck at 9 months of gestation because "Massa", (who was also the father of the baby after raping her) didn't want to deal with the baby, which was born dead.
      Read the article.
      Then comment.

      March 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dott

    I thought that the USA was the only nation in the world that ever had slavery or you would think so since no one can seem to just get over that fact. No one living today in the USA was ever a slave or owned one but you would think that it happened last week.

    March 19, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mary

    Connection to this article... The slave owners are not the only ones who have a corner on sin! I AM ALSO A SINNER!

    I'm in the middle of eating my *spiritual food* and thought I would share, for anyone who would like to have some.
    I am in no way judging but making myself clear here. I am no different from others but will follow Gods word not mans.

    We all have been bitten, and sin is coursing through our veins. It will most certainly lead to death. There is only one solution, but it is an offense to our ability to save ourselves.

    I BEING ONE NOT TO DENY MY OWN SINS
    * In my struggle against sin, I have not yet resisted to the point of shedding my blood.
    * To every instinct, impulse, and desire of the flesh. This is the violence of the war of the kingdom of God
    1 Peter 5:8 "Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone."

    This is what MARY is seeking NOT a finger I am pointing
    If you wish not to hear it please pass this post

    I hope this will clarify any further posts I *MAY* make in the future.

    March 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Portland tony

    @banasy© Yes I reread the article on Slavery in Mauritania and am terribly saddened by some third world social norms. I am also more than a little angry that more insidious types of slavery exist throughout the entire African Continent. However ...it took 7 stagehands to get Walter Brennan on a horse for a two
    minute close-up. So I'm still thinking this human foot stool still isn't that strange.

    March 19, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. banasy©

    Tony, that was a movie, and not in the middle of the Sahara desert, with complete strangers asking for directions...anyhow, it doesn't matter.
    If you think waiting for another person dismount, walk up to another man's horse, act as a human footstool while the other man dismounted, and then repeated the whole procedure when the other man wanted to remount his horse isn't strange, well, okay....but I do.
    Perhaps it WAS a big joke being played, but for what purpose, I couldn't begin to fathom.
    If that is their normal way of mounting and dismounting a horse, it makes my wonder how the Moors ever waged any war, what with all the exctra people waiting around on their donkeys and all.

    March 19, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. The Truth

    The truth is Mauritania has it's own problems, just like any other place in this messed up world but the Americans are always fooled into something they think they know by some very mean spirited people w/ their own agendas. GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT!!!

    March 20, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pandi

      I am going by this report, and I didn't see any mean-spirited people reporting, only kind-hearted ones. What agenda does CNN have besides spotlighting a problem that others may not know about?

      March 20, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. Pandi

    Thank you for your post. Two sides to every story, as you have posted. I will look further.

    March 20, 2012 at 8:31 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Cesar The Chorizo Chimp Of Chihuahua

    Marijuana has a ways to go. We freed the slaves, though. Why don't they know yet?

    March 20, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Trey

    The height of African civilization was white colonization. It’s been all downhill since. Half the continent qualifies as a failed state. Rudyard Kipling and the White Man’s Burden are out; the myth of multiculturalism is in. As western power wanes, so too does its influence. You think Mauritania is the last slavery holdout? News flash: It’s the trend of the future.

    By the way, slavery is alive and well in Haiti, and at this very moment in Haitian communities in Florida, USA, man is holding his fellow man in bondage. Slavery in America, today. Where’s the outrage? Where’s Jessie Jackson clamoring for reparations? Oh, he only talks about slavery 150 years ago to tweak liberal white guilt to extort what he hasn’t earned.

    March 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mohamed dia

    good job CNN.I can not stop thanking those journalist been capable and courageous to go to those out of though goverments live.

    March 25, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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