The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave: Related by Herself

The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave: Related by Herself

The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave: Related by Herself

The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave: Related by Herself

Synopsis

Mary Prince's narrative was one of the earliest to reveal the ugly truths about slavery in the West Indies to an English reading public that was largely unaware of its atrocities. Prince was born in Bermuda to an enslaved family. She spent her early life in harsh conditions and was eventually sold to John Adams Wood of Antigua, working as his domestic servant. She joined the Moravian Church, where she learned to read, and married Daniel James, a former slave who had bought his freedom. In 1828 she traveled to England with the Woods family and after protracted efforts by abolitionists was able to leave their control. Encouraged by her new employer, Thomas Pringle, who also served as her editor, Prince wrote and published her book in 1831 to wide acclaim.

While eighteenth-century slave narratives largely focused on Christian spiritual journeys and religious redemption, Prince was part of a growing trend of abolitionist writers focused on the injustice of slavery. Her work stands alongside better-known narratives such as A Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Adding to its importance, few early women's slave narratives exist.

A DOCSOUTH BOOK. This collaboration between UNC Press and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library brings classic works back into print. DocSouth Books editions are selected from the digital library of Documenting the American South and are unaltered from the original publication. The DocSouth series uses digital technology to offer e-books and print-on-demand publications, providing affordable and accessible editions to a new generation of scholars, students, and general readers.

Excerpt

The idea of writing Mary Prince’s history was first suggested by herself. She wished it to be done, she said, that good people in England might hear from a slave what a slave had felt and suffered; and a letter of her late master’s, which will be found in the Supplement, induced me to accede to her wish without farther delay. the more immediate object of the publication will afterwards appear.

The narrative was taken down from Mary’s own lips by a lady who happened to be at the time residing in my family as a visitor. It was written out fully, with all the narrator’s repetitions and prolixities, and afterwards pruned into its present shape; retaining, as far as was practicable, Mary’s exact expressions and peculiar phraseology. No fact of importance has been omitted, and not a single circumstance or sentiment has been added. It is essentially her own, without any material alteration farther than was requisite to exclude redundances and gross grammatical errors, so as to render it clearly intelligible.

After it had been thus written out, I went over the whole, carefully examining her on every fact and circumstance detailed; and in all that relates to her residence in Antigua I had the advantage of being assisted in this scrutiny by Mr. Joseph Phillips, who was a resident in that colony during the same period, and had known her there.

The names of all the persons mentioned by the narrator have been printed in full, except those of Capt. I—— and his wife, and that of Mr. D——, to whom conduct of peculiar atrocity is ascribed. These three individuals are now gone to answer at a far more awful tribunal than that of public opinion, for the deeds of which their former bondwoman accuses them; and to hold them up more openly to human reprobation could no longer affect themselves, while it might deeply lacerate the feelings of their surviving and perhaps innocent relatives, without any commensurate public advantage.

[Page ii]Without detaining the reader with remarks on other points, which will be adverted to more conveniently in the Supplement, I shall . . .

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