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New fight, old foe: Slavery

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Zach Hunter was only 12 years old when he became an abolitionist. During Black History Month three years ago, as he read about Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, he thought he, too, would have fought against slavery if he'd lived back then. But to his astonishment, Zach found soon afterward that people are still held as slaves today.

"When I learned there were about 27 million slaves in the world, it blew me away," says the high school freshman from Atlanta. "I wondered what I could do."

He noticed loose change lying around the house, and a project was born. He formed Loose Change to Loosen Chains, and with the help of friends, collected some $10,000 to fight modern-day slavery.

This year, Zach is part of a much broader antislavery initiative, serving as student spokesman for "The Amazing Change." Next month marks the 200th anniversary of the end of the British slave trade, which was spurred by a young parliamentarian and reformer, William Wilberforce. A feature film on Wilberforce, "Amazing Grace," opens in US theaters nationwide on Feb. 23. The filmmakers are partnering with modern antislavery organizations to enlist students and others in a contemporary abolitionist movement. (See: www.theamazingchange.com).

For his part, Zach has penned a book, "Be the Change," and travels across the country to speak to young people at music festivals, schools, and churches.

"I tell them they can channel their passion into something that makes a difference," he says. "Small groups of people have changed things all through history."

Slavery is illegal everywhere in the world, yet it persists. Zach finds inspiration in the courage of Wilberforce, who kept fighting under difficult circumstances. The reformer spent 20 years collecting evidence of the crimes of Britain's slave trade. He introduced bills that were repeatedly rejected by parliament before the trade was finally ended in 1807.

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