Born in 1976, Ben Skinner was raised in Wisconsin and northern Nigeria, where
his father had served as a British colonial administrator. He first learned
about slavery as a child in a Quaker meeting. The Quakers, who believed that the
divine spark animates every man, were the first abolitionists. Skinner's Sunday
school teachers spent as much time on Harriet Tubman and William Lloyd Garrison
as they did on Moses and Jesus.
Skinner himself comes from abolitionist stock. His great-great-grandfather, Robert Pratt, served with the 1st Connecticut Artillery at the Siege of Petersburg, the ten-month campaign which bled white the Confederate Army and led to Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Pratt's uncle was a comb-maker too old to serve at the time, but not too old to make fiery antislavery speeches. When one of his distributors told him his abolitionist talk was hurting sales in the south, he exploded: "If they won't buy my Yankee combs, then let them go lousy!"
In 2003, as a writer on assignment in Sudan for Newsweek International, Skinner met his first survivor of slavery. He had first flown in under enemy radar with an Evangelical group purporting to buy slaves en masse to secure their freedom. Afterwards, on his own, he hitched a ride on a U.N. Cessna to the frontlines of the north-south Sudanese civil war. There he met Muong Nyong. Like Skinner, Nyong was 27 at the time, and pondering what to do with the rest of his life. Unlike Skinner, he had spent the first part of that life in bondage.
After meeting Nyong, Skinner traveled the globe to find others like him. Scholars estimate the total number of modern-day slaves is greater than at any point in history. But the number means nothing, unless slavery means something. Skinner adopted a narrow definition: slaves are forced to work, under threat of violence, for no pay beyond subsistence.
Though there are more slaves today than ever before, finding them would prove the most daunting challenge of Skinner's professional life. Slaves languish in shadows, kept hidden by violent traffickers and masters. Going undercover when necessary, Skinner infiltrated trafficking networks and slave quarries, urban child markets and illegal brothels. In the process, he became the first person in history to observe the sales of human beings on four continents. Skinner's book about the horrors of modern slavery is entitled A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery.
This biography was last updated on 08/13/2011.
A note about the biographies
We try to keep BookBrowse's biographies both up to date and accurate. However, with over 2500 lives to keep track of it's inevitable that some won't be as current or as complete as we would like. So, please help us - if the information about a particular author is out of date, inaccurate or simply very short, and you know of a more complete source, please let us know. Authors and those connected with authors: If you wish to make changes to your bio, please send your complete biography as you would like it displayed so that we can replace the old with the new.
Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!
Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only
Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare set in Savannah
Solve this clue:
and be entered to win..
Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.
Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.