Mary Prince was born into enslavement on the British owned Island of Bermuda 1788? As with many enslaved people exact records of births and deaths can be difficult to come by and Mary's birth year is an estimation. She was the daughter of a House slave and a Sawyer nothing unusual there but through Mary's narrative we are given rare insights into her life as an enslaved person. We learn of moments of love, conflict and some of the intricacies of chattel slavery that are seldom heard. When Mary's narrative was 1st published it was the harsh realities the brutality of enslavement the treatment and dehumanisation of people that shocked readers. Also it was the fact of a woman speaking of flogging, of work that wasn't just back breaking but life taking. She gives us her words and thoughts of how it felt to be enslaved, owned bought and sold. Mary's story gives us the voice of the 'chattel' those voices that are often silent, silenced, ignored of spoken for. Many who read her book could now picture enslaved people more fully as people with feelings, hopes and dreams. It also again highlighted Britain's role in enslavement, often today many of us think of slavery as an American experience, hearing stories of the deep south, and forget that Britain played a major role. Mary's words help to remind us.
Mary Prince - Timeline
1788? Born into Slavery the property of Mr Charles Myners in Bermuda
1791? SOLD to Old Captain Darrel with her Mother
1801 SOLD to Capt. John Ingham
1806 SOLD to Slaver Mr D to work in salt ponds in Turks & Caicos
1810-14 Owner Mr D retires and takes Mary back to Bermuda
1815 SOLD to John Adams Wood of Antigua
1817 Joined the church and was baptised
1826 Married former slave Daniel James
1828 Wood takes Mary to London without her husband
1829 Mary leaves Wood, meets abolitionist Thomas Pringle & goes to work for him 1831 Wrote ‘History of Mary Prince’
1833 Mary testifies in libel cases arising from book
1834 Slavery Abolition Act passed
1838 Colonies completed Abolition
As well as being the first woman to present an anti -slavery pertition to parliament and the first black woman to write and publish an autobiography in Britain, Mary's legacy is that she gives voice to one of the many, many enslaved stories that resent history has chosen to ignore and forget.
Britain's links to the slave trade can still be seen through out the nation today. From country houses, factories, ports, Universities, Banking, the Church and more - they were all built on or profited from this trade in human lives over centuries. The profits gained from chattel slavery helped to finance the Industrial Revolution and the Caribbean islands became the hub of the British Empire.
1698 - The British Parliament opens the slave trade to all and the number of slaves transported on English ships increases dramatically to an average of 20,000 per year. By the end of the 17th century, England leads the world in the trafficking of slaves.
1780's - The slave trade reaches its peak. It is estimated that one slave ship leaves Britain every other day.The toll on human life is considerable. The Privy Council estimate that half of the slaves are dying either in transit or in the initial period after their arrival (called 'the seasoning').
The sugar colonies were Britain's most valuable. By the end of the eighteenth century, four million pounds came into Britain from its West Indian plantations, compared with one million from the rest of the world.
We are at:
The Attic - Pleasance Courtyard 12.45 (13.35)
July 31 to August 25 (Not 12 or 19)
Kuumba Nia Arts and Unlock the Chains Collective are excited by this great opportunity for SOLD to reach a national and international audience. With the help and support of the Oxford Playhouse we are doing a full Edinburrgh fringe run .