President Lincoln’s Cottage (PLC) opened in 2008 as a historic site and museum in northwest Washington, D.C. While in residence, Lincoln opened himself to new perspectives and developed nation-changing ideas—most notably, the Emancipation Proclamation. Today, PLC uses Lincoln’s example to inspire visitors to take their own path to greatness, and preserves this place as a beacon of hope for all who take up Lincoln’s unfinished work. A shining example that harnesses the power of this place is the 2015 Students Opposing Slavery International Summit, a week- long summit dedicated to raising awareness among teens on the issue of human trafficking, or modern slavery.
Students Opposing Slavery (SOS) is a grassroots, student-based project of PLC that works to end modern slavery. SOS started in 2012, when PLC began working with a group of four local high school students who first organized to raise awareness in their schools by taking action against human trafficking and modern slavery. The cornerstone of SOS has become the annual Students Opposing Slavery International Summit, a week-long summer program that engages high school students from around the world on the issue of modern slavery. After two years of piloting, refining, and establishing solid partnerships, the 2015 SOS International Summit filled a void in education for both the anti-trafficking and museum fields by leveraging the history of PLC to establish the premiere anti-human trafficking youth engagement program in the world.
Throughout the week, the students understand that slavery is an ongoing issue that requires big thinking and direct action, just as it did in Lincoln’s time. To break down perceived barriers among student participants from diverse socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds, the Summit begins and ends with team building exercises. Each day students have ample opportunity for large and small group work, brainstorming, and meaningful reflection. In addition, PLC leverages the site’s potential to facilitate an understanding of the historical forces underlying the issue. PLC staff lead the participants on a guided tour of the Cottage and exhibits, exploring the complex discussions Lincoln took part in while developing the Emancipation Proclamation and the modern implications and complexity of the fight for freedom.
By engaging young people from diverse backgrounds in the modern fight against slavery, this project inspires and supports youth building a modern abolitionist network and movement around the world. President Lincoln’s Cottage provides invaluable guidance and context that helps young social activists understand the historical basis of current events as well as draw inspiration from the examples of the past. By convening the SOS International Summit each summer, and supporting students as they raise awareness in their communities about the 20.9 million people currently enslaved worldwide, PLC meets the organization’s mission to “Bring the world to the Cradle of the Emancipation Proclamation and connect with Lincoln through his untold stories,” and its vision to “Meet the true Lincoln and continue his fight for freedom.”