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Captain John Ingham and his family purchased Mary Prince for 57 pounds

Mary Prince and her two sisters were sold at the Hamilton Slave Auction

Mary Prince

Mary PrinceTreasure Tannock
00:00 / 07:03

The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave

Mary Prince was the 1st Enslaved Black Woman to have her Enslaved Narrative transcribed with the Anti-Slavery Society in London, England and it was published in 1831 to assist with the Abolishment of the Slavery throughout the British Overseas Territories including Bermuda and these acts passed in Britain’s Parliament in August 1833 and the Enslaved people in Bermuda received Emancipation on August 1,1834.

 

Mary Prince became a British abolitionist and autobiographer. Her enslaved narrative was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in the United Kingdom. This first-hand description of the brutalities of enslavement, released at a time when slavery was still legal in Bermuda and British overseas territories, had a galvanizing effect on the anti-slavery movement. It was reprinted twice in its first year. Her Autobiography is now in a book called the History of Mary Prince a West Indian Slave which is sold online at Amazon and can be purchased at various book stores in Bermuda and overseas.

 

 

Mary Prince was born into slavery in Bermuda either between 1785-1788 (The exact date of the enslaved births were not kept on record in those days, because the enslaved were chattel or movable property, but guestimates can be made based on researching her Enslavers list of enslaved people on the property).

 

Her parents were enslaved. Her Father was named Prince and he was enslaved by David Trimmingham and built Bermuda Sloops and was a Master Carpenter and lived down at Crow Lane. Her Mother was named Sue was an enslaved domestic of Charles Myners, who lived in Brackish Pond, Devonshire. Mary had siblings, and they were all enslaved.

 

Over the course of her life, Mary Prince had five slave-owners, and they were all Bermudian, and she was enslaved in Bermuda, Grand Turk Island, and Antigua.

 

At this house Mary Prince lived from 12-17 years old and she realized her lot in life was to be a slave and she was angry because she wanted to be free! To be Free is SWEET! Looking for a Better way!

 

At a house called School Lands Cottage, in 2018, The Bermuda National Trust unveiled a plaque in honor of Mary Prince and her invaluable contribution for Freedom. 

Mary Prince lived at School Lands Cottage, with Captain and Mrs. Ingham and in her autobiography, she describes how dreadfully horrible it was living with them, as she endured countless beatings from them and witnessed other enslaved people endure the same and one enslaved woman murdered by Captain Ingham. The Ingham’s eventually sold Mary to a salt raking plantation owned by Robert Darrell, in Grand Turks Island.

 

 

Mary Prince was sent back to Bermuda by her enslaver, Robert Darrell and then sold to a plantation in Antigua owned by John Adams Wood Jr. In Antigua, she joined the Spring Gardens Moravian Mission church congregation, where she learned how to read and write. At Christmas 1826, Mary married a free black man, Daniel James. 

 

About a year and a half after Mary married Daniel, the Woods went to London, England, and they took Mary with them. Shortly after they arrived, Mary walked out their door into the streets of London a free woman. It was 1828, and slavery was not supported by the British legal system, although it was still allowed in Britain’s colonies.

 

Many people helped Mary when she was in London. They gave her warm clothes and money, and got her paying work. Near the end of November 1828, she was taken to the Anti-Slavery office in London, where she met Thomas Pringle an abolitionist. Mary wanted to return to Antigua, and to her husband Daniel, as a free woman. It was decided to try to negotiate with John Adams Wood Jr. for Mary’s freedom, but Wood would not free her on any terms.

 

Next, it was decided to bring Mary’s case to Parliament, and a petition was drawn up. It was presented 24 June 1829 and it expressed her wish to return to the West Indies, but not as an enslaved person. The petition was not successful. Soon after it was presented to Parliament, the Wood family returned to Antigua.

 

The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 had its third reading in Parliament. This was on 26 July 1833. A month after that, on 28 August 1833, it received Royal Assent. It commenced on 1 August 1834.

 

There was a required six-year apprenticeship. This meant ex-slaves had to continue working for their previous slave-owners. Bermuda and Antigua were exempted from the apprenticeship program. On 1 August 1838, approximately 800,000 British slaves were truly, and finally, free.

 

The Act included £20 million in compensation for slave-owners who had lost their “property,” when their slaves were freed.  John Adams Wood Jr. registered 30 claims for over 1,000 slaves, including slaves on 13 estates in Antigua. He was successful in 25 of these claims, receiving over £10 thousand in compensation for 737 slaves (Legacies of British Slave-ownership). He was not able to claim for Mary Prince.

 

The third section of the Act freed all slaves who at any time previous to its passing had been brought with the consent of their slave-owners to any part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This affected Mary Prince’s situation. As of 28 August 1833, she could return to Antigua and remain free.

 

 

 

 

The Middle Passage and the institution of slavery is a catastrophic legacy of colonialism. A terrible and brutal knowledge, it also provides an opening for understanding. Discerning the past helps us to live in the present with the past, and the future, in mind.

 

Mary Prince was a storyteller, an abolitionist, and a rebel. Her slave narrative, The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself, tells a story of past enslavement in Bermuda that is different from the story of enslavement that has been more commonly told. This is that Bermudian enslavement was comparatively benign, or gentle or that is never existed at all.

 

Bringing Mary Prince’s The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself forward, and reclaiming it, creates a space for change. Perhaps Mary's story can help us to better understand colonial enslavement, and to heal from trauma that is associated with its afterlife.