Bales co-founded the NGO Free the Slaves in 2000 after going undercover to meet slaves and slaveholders. The results of this research became his book, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. The story eventually made its way on screen in the film Slavery: A Global Investigation, which won a Peabody Award and two Emmys.
Bales received his bachelor’s degree at OU in social anthropology in 1974, his master’s degrees at the University of Mississippi and the London School of Economics, and his doctoral degree from the London School of Economics. He has shared his academic knowledge as a professor of sociology in Roehampton University London, Richard and Ann Pozen Visiting Professor in Human Rights at the University of Chicago and professor of contemporary slavery and deputy director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom. Currently, Bales serves as a professor of contemporary slavery in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham.