For those of you who have not yet been exposed to the history writing of Tim Ballard—yes, the same Tim Ballard who runs the Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) to abolish child trafficking—this book is an in-depth account of his past experiences performing rescue operations against the child-slavery. What a lot of people do not realize is that child slavery still exists in America as well as the rest of the world so the author seeks to inform them through these accounts. This cause is already one that is very important to me; I remember once having the privilege of hearing Tim’s story from his own mouth and watch the footage of one his team’s most daring rescues in Haiti. So, when I saw the release of this new book that not only communicates the details of this present-day slavery, but also connects the story of one female historical figure, Harriet Jacobs, I knew that it was worth the read.
In this book Tim not only recounts his own experiences with the OUR, but also parallels the life of Harriet Jacobs and her story of escaping from the hands of her relentless slave master during the Civil War. As the subtitle infers, the story contains True Accounts of Slave Rescues, Then and Now. Tim argues the importance of looking outside oneself and looking for opportunities to serve their fellow men and women by getting involved with worthy causes, such as OUR.
A former FBI agent, Tim is the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, which is as I before mentioned, a foundation that embarks upon dangerous missions to extract as many children as they can from places where children are being trafficked for sex, organ harvesting, and slavery. Tim and his team of volunteers from OUR create awareness of these issues in books like Slave Stealers and invite others to get involved in helping to rescue these children. Tim is also an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and avid historian. In addition to Slave Stealers, He incorporates his love of history with his faith in God in some of the other books he has written including The American Covenant, The Lincoln Hypothesis, The Washington Hypothesis, and The Pilgrim Hypothesis.
Tim communicates his story in a very engaging way and uses facts to support his arguments without making the reader bored or lose interest. Two ways he does this is through including true quotes from Harriet Jacobs in her account along with focusing on her POV:
The wheels in her head began turning. She had an idea. It was something she would have never done under different circumstances.Slave Stealers, page 40
To give the audience a better idea of the events that led up to OUR’s mission to free some of the children they learned were captured in Haiti, Tim also includes conversations he had with those who inspired his cause. One example of this was Tim’s conversation with a man named Guenso, who relates the story of his own son’s kidnapping in Haiti and Tim’s promise to find him. This event would lead the author through OUR’s first mission that would springboard all the others.
“If I have to give up my son so that these…kids can be set free, then that’s a burden I’m willing to bear.”
The bittersweet thoughts of all of this filled me, blessed me, haunted me.Tim reflects on Guenso’s words after the Haiti rescue, Slave Stealers, page 147.
The only potential problem I could I see occurring with this book is that non-members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may feel hesitant to read an account by a member and assume the history may be skewed to fit a religious agenda. HOWEVER, I do not think that this will be an issue, since Tim reflects his belief to serve God in a non-biased way; one where he invites the whole world to draw on the histories of Harriet, Abraham Lincoln, and others in order to help better fight present-day slavery and other injustices.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and the message it contained. Though my opinion may seem a bit biased, since I had already been exposed to this organization and its work before reading this book, my opinion remains: more books like these need to come to the forefront of readership in the United States and the rest of the world. Perhaps then, more readers can, as Tim invites, look outside themselves and become more aware of the terrible acts that still exist among the human race. Through the educational awareness that books and authors like this provide can humanity learn and develop ways to help prevent future generations from experiencing the horrors of slavery.