Contact:Kim Brockway
(212) 854-2419
For immediate release
September 16, 1998

Columbia Student Fights Slavery in Africa As First Musher International Fellow

	Protesting with placards in front of an embassy might be an effective means 
of demonstrating opposition for some, but not for Columbia University alumnus 
and doctoral candidate Samuel Cotton.
	Instead, Mr. Cotton fights slavery and human rights abuses in the African 
nations of Mauritania and Sudan by testifying before Congress, producing a 
documentary that features interviews with slaves and anti-slavery activists, and 
writing newspaper articles, essays and the book, Silent Terror: An African-
American's Journey into Slavery.  This fall, as the first Willma and Albert 
Musher International Fellow at Columbia's School of Social Work, Mr. Cotton is 
creating a victim's relief initiative for Mauritanians. 
	"I prefer to use smooth stones in my battles," said Mr. Cotton, "and look for 
concrete interventions that can make a measurable difference.  Because of our 
work, people who used to operate in the dark now can't."
	A self-described warrior-philosopher, Mr. Cotton became aware of the 
continued practice of slavery on the continent of Africa - specifically, in the 
Islamic Republic of Mauritania and in the Sudan - as a reporter with the City 
Sun, a New York weekly.  Assigned to investigate allegations of enslavement of 
black Africans by Arabs in the region in 1994, he produced articles and research 
that set off a storm of controversy in the African-American community and drew 
particularly heavy criticism from the Nation of Islam.  An issue that had been 
largely ignored by both black and national broadcast media was soon the subject of 
a series of radio and television debates involving Mr. Cotton, Louis Farrakhan 
and others.  Respected columnist Nat Hentoff also wrote a number of articles on 
the subject for the Village Voice . 
	It became painfully clear, according to Mr. Cotton, that "black political and 
spiritual leadership had closed the doors on the African refugee communities 
here in the United States," so he created CASMAS, the Coalition Against Slavery 
in Mauritania and Sudan.  The goal of the organization is to organize abolitionists 
and human rights groups to fight for the eradication of slavery and other forms of 
human rights violations in Africa, especially in Mauritania and Sudan, and to 
raise awareness of the issue in the United States and abroad. 
	Mr. Cotton, executive director of CASMAS, went undercover into 
Senegalese refugee camps and in the desert capital of Mauritania for three weeks 
in 1995-96 to conduct the interviews that would form the basis of his documentary 
and subsequent book.  CASMAS also has delivered more than a ton of clothing to 
refugees, sponsored national and international summits and conducted constant 
information-awareness campaigns across the country, including teach-ins and 
media appearances.  The organization is now working to deliver much-needed 
food and medicine to the region.
	Unusual work for an academic, some might say.
	Entirely appropriate, said Mr. Cotton, who received his M.S. degree, with a 
concentration in social research, from Columbia's School of Social Work in 1995 
after earning his B.A. in sociology from Lehman College.  "As intellectual 
centers, our universities should be involved in helping to effect change," he said.  
"Too often, academics conduct research and those findings are acted on by others.  
I decided that I wanted to be the one to do the study, and  be the one to sit before 
Congress and say, 'Do something about this.'"
	The academic community's high regard for his scholarly achievements 
has yielded him a number of new opportunities.  This fall, for example, he begins 
work as the first Musher International Fellow, charged with advancing the cause 
of world peace through research and technology, but not limited to those means.  
The fellowship will provide entree to valuable research and contacts at the United 
Nations as he creates the Mauritanian Refugee Relief Initiative to produce and 
distribute food and thus alleviate the tensions in Senegal by the influx of 
Mauritanian refugees there.
	Mr. Cotton has secured permission from Ghanaian landholders and 
Ghana's Ministry of Food and Agriculture to place 2,500 acres of land into 
production for food relief to the refugees.  The fellowship will allow him to further 
plan and implement the project, coordinating the logistics with the appropriate 
U.N., International Red Cross, Senegalese and Ghanaian agencies.  
	"I believe that the more stable and politically mature nations of a region 
should intercede both diplomatically and practically in the conflict resolution 
process of another sovereign nation," Mr. Cotton said.  "As a Musher Fellow, I 
hope to build relationships and connections that will allow me to turn the $5,000 
grant into $50,000 that could significantly improve the agricultural and economic 
situation in the area."
	His selection as the first Musher International Fellow, an important part of 
the continuing collaboration between Columbia's School of Social Work and the 
United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs, is only one 
illustration of the academic community's respect for Mr. Cotton.  Earlier this year 
at a conference marking the School of Social Work's centennial, he received the 
Centennial Award for Young Leadership, and last year he was awarded a Petra 
Foundation Fellowship, recognizing individuals who make an important 
contribution to human freedom.
	The "warrior" will surely agree that awareness is rising.  A fast-fax system 
is in place to notify officials in the U.S. State Department of Africans reported 
missing in Mauritania and Sudan, and abolitionists across the country - in such 
important cities as Chicago, Detroit, and Atlanta - are mobilizing.  Mr. Cotton's 
film footage has been acquired by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black 
Culture and his book will soon be published by Harlem River Press.  
	But the "philosopher" is driven by the reality that more work needs to be 
done.   In the conclusion to Silent Terror, he writes:  "When evils are exposed, 
such as those related to slavery, invariably the character of those who grasp the 
horrors of the revelation is tested.  It is easy to rant and rage against horrors lost 
in antiquity, to express bitterness and anger for those tortured souls now asleep in 
death, or to shake one's fists at ghosts.  The difficulty lies in opposing a living 
adversary whose rapacious appetites are hell-bound to decimate all that one holds 
dear in the here and now."

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