Dr. Samuel Cotton, a pioneer of the modern anti-slavery movement, died in December after a protracted battle with cancer. Cotton first learned about contemporary slavery in Sudan and Mauritania in 1995 when the City Sun, an African-American newspaper in New York, asked him to look into the story. He soon found that thousands of dark-skinned Muslims and black Christians were being held in bondage by lighter-skinned Muslims in the two countries. Cotton worked tirelessly for their emancipation, speaking at conferences and lectures and testifying before the U.S. Congress about his findings - all of which set off storms of controversy. He founded the Coalition Against Slavery in Mauritania and Sudan (CASMAS), an abolitionist movement to eradicate slavery and other forms of human rights violations in Africa.
Cotton undertook a 28-day undercover mission to aid slaves in Mauritania, which formed the basis of his book and film Silent Terror: A Journey Into Contemporary African Slavery. These became a call to action for Americans, particularly African Americans, to join the new abolitionist movement.