Prince’s role in abolition hailed in Britain
Mary Prince, a former slave and one of Bermuda's national heroes, has come to new prominence in Britain for her key role in the campaign to abolish slavery.
The group Historic England is championing the cause of the women whose contributions to the fight against slavery have been overshadowed by more famous men such as William Wilberforce. Prince, born in Bermuda in about 1788, was integral in the movement to abolish slavery in Britain, particularly with her life story, ‘The History of Mary Prince'.
Prince, along with the Quaker abolitionist Elizabeth Heyrick and Sarah Parker Remond, an American slave who obtained her freedom and lectured across Britain, has been held up by Historic England in conjunction with the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade.
Such women were “instrumental in bringing about an end to slavery, yet their own stories have been lost”, according to Rosie Sherrington, a policy adviser for the group. “We want to celebrate these women and remember their contributions.”
Slavery was struck down in Britain's colonies in 1834, with immediate consequences for Bermuda.
For the thousands of people on the Island who had been brought here as slaves, emancipation meant freedom — even if just a first step on the long fight to achieve equality.
Prince's book riveted England when it came out in 1831. It was the first black woman's autobiography to be published there.
An unflinching account of her life after being born into slavery, the book recounted how she was sold no less than four times.
Its descriptions of the brutality endured by slaves — which included descriptions of the floggings meted out in her native Bermuda — appalled readers.
According to Clare Midgley, a professor at Sheffield Hallam University who has researched the role of women in the abolition movement, Prince's story transcended her own life by portraying “how this was typical of women's oppression, sexual abuse, physical violence, overwork”.
The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade was marked on Sunday, bringing the story of Mary Prince to the pages of British newspapers.
Prince, who was repeatedly suggested as a candidate for National Heroes Day in Bermuda, was formally recognised in 2012.
Historic England, which was formerly known as English Heritage, is a public organisation dedicated to protecting England's heritage and educating the public on the country's history.