When young Francis Bok was only 7 years old, he went to the market in his village in southern Sudan to sell eggs and beans for his prosperous, tight-knit Dinka family.
By the end of the day he had seen large swaths of his village burned and witnessed dozens of members of his tribe decapitated or shot in the head, including two small girls. Before he could figure out what was happening, he was abducted by an Arab man from the north who made him his slave.
Forced to live in a small clay hut among the livestock with nothing but a makeshift bed and two blankets, Bok was given only two meals a day of rancid meat or watered-down milk. Though he was only 7, Bok was quickly charged with tending a large herd of goats for his new master, Giemma, who informed Bok that he was no different from the animals he tended.
Realizing quickly that he had little hope of being rescued and that the family who had enslaved him would kill him or severely maim him if he tried to escape, Bok obediently served his Muslim master for seven years, eventually being promoted to the more dangerous job of cowherd.
During this time, Bok learned Arabic and was forced to adopt Muslim customs and pray to Allah. But all the while, he prayed to his Christian God, cherishing the happy memories of his family and planning, one day, to escape.
When he was 14, Bok decided he was finally old enough to make a run for freedom. Leaving his herd of cattle and camels in a field, he was caught almost immediately by the network of Muslim militiamen in the Nyamlell region of Sudan.
After another escape attempt the following day, Bok's master put a gun to his head and promised to kill him the next morning. But because killing him would mean that his master would be forced to tend to his herds himself, Bok was given one final reprieve. Bok vowed to run away again, but decided he would wait three more years (until he was the age of his elder brother when he was abducted).
Finally, when he turned 17, Bok managed to escape his Mulslim master only to be enslaved by the police in a neighboring city.
After escaping the police and reuniting with distant tribal relatives in the capital city of Khartoum, Bok was then imprisoned when a Dinka informant ratted him out to police for a bribe.
Bok's harrowing escape through Egypt and eventual expatriation to the United States as a refugee was just the beginning of his journey. He has since become an impassioned activist for the liberation of his people in Sudan and an educator on the topic of the international slave trade. Almost 150 years after the abolition of the U.S. slave trade with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865, it is estimated that there are still nearly 27 million people (more than six times the population of Colorado) living in slavery worldwide.
Now the author of Escape from Slavery: The true story of my ten years in captivity -- and my journey to freedom in America and an associate at the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group, Bok will speak at Colorado College this Monday.
-- Noel Black
Francis Bok lecturing on the global slave trade
Worner Center at Colorado College, 902 N. Cascade Ave.
Mon., Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.
Free; Call 389-6606
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