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Escape from Slavery
The True Story of My Ten Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America
Francis Bok with Edward Tivnan
St. Martin's Griffin, October 2004
ISBN: 978-0-312-30624-3, ISBN10: 0-312-30624-5,
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 304 pages, Includes eight pages of black-and-white photographs,
Trade Paperback, $14.95
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African Studies - All Titles
First-Year Reading - All Titles
Africa & Middle East
Young Adult Literature
Young Adult Nonfiction
Winner of the 2003 Suze Orman First Book Award
In this groundbreaking modern slave narrative, Francis Bok shares his remarkable story with grace, honesty, and a wisdom gained from surviving a decade in captivity.
In May 1986, seven-year-old Francis Bok was selling his mother's eggs and peanuts near his village in southern Sudan when his life was suddenly shattered: Arab raiders on horseback, armed with rifles and long knives, burst into the quiet marketplace, murdering men and women and gathering the young children into a group. Strapped to horses and donkeys, Francis and others were taken north into lives of slavery under wealthy Muslim farmers.
For ten years, Francis lived alone in a shed near the goats and cattle that were his responsibility. Fed with scraps from the table, slowly learning bits of an unfamiliar language and religion, the boy had almost no human contact other than his captor's family. After two failed attempts to escape—each bringing severe beatings and death threats—Francis finally escaped at age 17, a dramatic breakaway on foot that he felt was his final chance. Yet his slavery did not end there, for even as he made his way toward the capital city of Khartoum, others sought to deprive him of his freedom. Determined to avoid that fate and discover what had happened to his family on that terrible day in 1986, Francis persevered through prison and refugee camps for three more years, finally winning the attention of United Nations officials and being granted passage to America.
Now a student and antislavery activist, Francis Bok has made it his life's mission to combat world slavery. His is among the first voices to speak for an estimated 27 million people held against their will in nearly every nation, including our own.
Escape from Slavery
is at once a riveting adventure yarn, a story of desperation and triumph, a call to activism and responsibility, and a memoir that reveals a world few have survived to tell about.
"The Dinka Men were lying all over the marketplace. My parents were back at our farm. Scared, I wanted to be with the big kids from Gourion. They were supposed to be looking after me. But they were in the other group, and I was afraid to go to them. I looked around the marketplace for help, but all I could see were those bodies of the men, not moving, the blood running from them like water in little rivers going nowhere. I had never seen a dead body before. When an old person in our village died, they would not let the little kids see the body. Now I saw more dead bodies than I could count—some without heads, others looking as if they had just decided to lie down in the dust and go to sleep. How did I feel? People always ask me how I felt at that moment, and all I can answer is that I had never felt such terror, confusion, and helplessness before—or since. I wanted my mother; I wanted my father to pick me up onto his shoulders and carry me away from this. I felt so many feelings at once that I suddenly felt nothing. My entire body and mind turned numb as I waited to be killed."—
Escape from Slavery
"A touching modern-day slave narrative that is more than just an account of [Bok's] journey from childhood to manhood under the worst of circumstances. It is an inspirational story meant to heighten support for the antislavery movement of the 21st century, and it most likely will . . . Pages of historical details are eye-opening and provide a glimpse into what can happen when religion is the impetus in the governing of a nation . . . An informative and inspiring read."—
The Boston Globe
"Bok takes the Sudanese government and world leaders to task for their indifference to his people's suffering. Although he at first was an unwilling ambassador, he has become a leading voice for the antislavery movement in the United States."—
Detroit News and Free Press
"It is [the author's] simple account of being a child cut off from his family and culture that shows the inhumanity of slavery. Bok's saga provides another—more contemporary—perspective on slavery for Americans reckoning with their own troubling history of such inhumanity."—
"A harrowing memoir in the gothic, almost surreal setting of what some Africans do to other Africans . . . [A] halting, traumatized account of cruelty and suffering."—
"A remarkable story . . . Its power is conveyed most effectively through Bok's simple retelling. His sincerity compels, especially when he describes the decade of mistreatment he endured . . . This is a powerful, exceptionally well-told story, equally riveting and heart-breaking . . . The persistence of slavery in the world makes this a work that can't be ignored."—
"A gripping story of terror and triumph . . . Bok has produced an important document on the plight of millions of people being held as slaves today."—
"As if Bok's story isn't gripping enough, his poignantly candid commentary on Sudan's Islamic nationalist government and the millions of enslaved Sudanese will prove equally mindblowing."—
Karyn L. Barr,
About the Author(s)
an associate at the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group. He speaks throughout the United States, has been featured in
The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal, Essence
magazine, and on Black Entertainment Television. He lives in Boston.
has collaborated on and is the author of several books. He was a reporter and staff writer for
magazine and helped create ABC's
. He lives in upstate New York.
© 2013 Macmillan