The practice of slavery has not been consigned to the past. Even though laws have been passed in many industrialized countries prohibiting it, it still exists. It isn’t just a term used by certain public figures as a perceived form of institutionalized racism. The word Slave is more than something the musician Prince wrote on his face due to a contract dispute. It’s real, and it’s happening now. And sadly, as a result of a demand for workers that don’t have to be paid or even treated well, human beings are trafficked around the world. They aren’t only trafficked for laborious work. They are often targeted for work in the sex industry. To make it even worse, if that isn’t bad enough, many of the victims are children.
Timothy Ballard is a former agent with the Department of Homeland Security. During his employment he saw things no one should ever have to see. While he was successful in dismantling dozens of trafficking rings, other undercover missions didn’t end as well as he’d hoped. He became the Founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.). In Slave Stealers, he’s written of his background, how he founded O.U.R., who’s inspired him, and about the operation in Haiti that started it all.
Half of the book is focused on the story of Harriet Jacobs whose master preyed on her and other female slaves. When she stood up to his attempts to seduce her, he separated her from her children and she was forced into hiding for seven years. She eventually escaped to the northern part of the USA, and became an abolitionist and author. Plenty of excerpts from her book are included in the text. Ballard explains the differences between the old form of slavery that Jacobs endured and present day slavery, but reminds us that neither can be judged as worse than the other.
Ballard also includes lessons that he’s learned from both Jacobs and Abraham Lincoln. But he also has something to impart to us. As NFL coach Mike Tomlin says in his forward to the book, and Ballard reiterates, we must find unity during these divisive times. One way to do that is to focus on something non-political or religious, and has nothing to do with race, such as putting an end to the trafficking and modern day slavery of children. Surely we can agree that no child should be afflicted to any form of abuse, including sexual abuse.
I knew of domestic slavery, but considered it as something that happened elsewhere. I’ve become more aware of the situation since becoming a Trades of Hope Compassionate Entrepreneur last year. This fair trade business has developed links with organizations involved with victim aftercare and also with the general movement to put an end to slavery. This is why I was interested in reading Slave Stealers. I found it to be an incredibly powerful book, written in easy to understand language. If it doesn’t leave you with tears in your eyes (yes, my eyes did water), your heart might need examining. We have a problem in this world. It isn’t just in Haiti, but everywhere including the USA. Two O.U.R. operations took place in Washington in 2017, and another took place in that state less than a month before this book’s publication. It’s here, it’s in our neighborhoods, and it’s time to wake up and do something about it.
I received a download of an uncorrected proof of Slave Stealers from Shadow Mountain, via NetGalley. My words and opinions are my own.
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: 04 September 2018