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Mary Prince

Mary Prince was the first black woman to have her life story published in Britain. She was born into slavery in 1788 on the Caribbean island of Bermuda, where her father and her mother served different masters. As a girl, Prince worked as a house slave under different masters on Bermuda until 1806, when she was sold to a salt pond owner on the island of Grand Turk. She returned to Bermuda with her master in 1810. In 1815 she became the property of John Adams Wood of Antigua and performed domestic duties for his family. She began to suffer from rheumatism but also managed to earn her own money by doing laundry and selling provisions to ships. She joined the Moravian Church and was baptised in 1817. In 1826 she married Daniel James, a former slave and carpenter, much to the disapproval of her owners, who took Prince with them when they travelled to Britain in 1828.

In London Prince ran away from her owners and enlisted the help of the Morovian Church and the abolitionist Thomas Pringle, who served as Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society. Pringle was unable to persuade Woods to manumit or sell Prince but did enable the publication of The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian slave. Related by Herself (1831). Prince’s life story, which was taken down by Susanna Strickland. played an important role in the ongoing political effort to end slavery – the slave trade already having been abolished in 1807. Although the reliability of Prince’s account was seriously questioned by those opposed to the abolition of slavery, it fed anti-slavery sentiment in Britain and in 1833 the Slavery Abolition Act was passed. Prince remained in England until that year, but it is not know whether Prince was still alive in 1834 when the Act took effect.

 

Bibliography

Deck, Alice. “The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself.” African American Review 30.2 (1996). Print.

Ferguson, Moira. “Introduction to the Revised Edition.” The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself. Ed. Moira Ferguson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997. 1-51. Print.

Innes, C.L. A History of Black and Asian Writing in Britain 1700-2000. Cambridge UP, 2002. Print.

Paquet, Sandra Pouchet. “The Heartbeat of a West Indian Slave: The History of Mary Prince.” African American Review 26.1 (1992): 131-146. Print.

Sandhu, Sukhdev. London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City. London: Harper, 2003. Print.

Todorova, Kremena T. I Will Say the Truth to the English People": The History of Mary Prince and the Meaning of English History.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 43. 3 (2001):  285-302. Print.

Woodard, Helena. African-British Writings in the Eighteenth Century: The Politics of Race and Reason. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.  Print.