Mary Prince was a Bermudian woman born into slavery in 1788 at Brackish Pond [now known as Devonshire Marsh] in Devonshire, Bermuda. Her parents were both slaves, her father – whose only given name was Prince – was a sawyer owned by David Trimingham; her mother – was a house servant owned by Charles Myners.
When Myners died in 1788, Mary Prince and her mother were sold as household servants to Captain Darrell, who gave Mary to his granddaughter. When she was 12, Mary Prince was sold for 38 pounds sterling to Captain John Ingham of Spanish Point. She never took easily to the indignities of her enslavement and was often flogged.
As punishment, she was sold to another Bermudian, probably Robert Darrell, who sent her in 1806 to Grand Turk to work in the salt industry. Mary returned to Bermuda in 1810 and was sold to John Adams Wood in 1818 for $300 and sent to Antigua to be a domestic slave.
She joined the Moravian Church, and in December 1826 married Daniel James, a former slave who had bought his freedom and worked as a carpenter and cooper. For this impudence, she was severely beaten by her master.
In 1828, Wood and his family took Mary with them to London as a servant. After years of abuse, Mary ran away from her master and took shelter with the Moravian church in Hatton Garden. Within a few weeks, she had employment with Thomas Pringle, an abolitionist writer and Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society – she ‘broke the silence’ by telling her story to the anti-slavery society.
In the spring of 1829, she found work as a domestic, but by the end of the year, she was hired to work in the household of Thomas Pringle, secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society. It was a time when slaves were encouraged to share their stories to aid the cause of abolition.
The two libel cases that followed the publication of Prince’s History were settled in 1833, the same year the Emancipation Bill, which freed slaves throughout the British Empire, including Bermuda, was passed by the House of Commons in London.
Prince, aged 45, by then half blind and in poor health, gave evidence at both trials, and then disappeared into the history books. Pringle won the first case, but lost the libel case brought against him by the Woods, who said Prince’s report of their treatment of her was untrue.
Her autobiography, ‘The History of Mary Prince’ published in 1831, was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in the United Kingdom. Mary Prince spoke of slavery with the authority of personal experience.
Mary Prince is known to have remained in England until at least 1833 – the year that the British Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act.
On 26 October 2007, the year of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, a plaque was unveiled at the University of London’s Senate House in London, England to commemorate the accomplishments of Mary Prince. Mary Prince lived in a house on the site in 1829. The plaque reads: “Mary Prince, 1788-1833, the first African woman to publish her memoirs of slavery lived in a house on this site in 1829.”
Mary Prince was inducted as National Hero of Bermuda in 2012.
Caribbean Elections provides comprehensive information on the electoral process, politics, and citizenship in the Caribbean. The portal includes election data and resources for the public, teachers, students, and researchers.