[Updated with video] Premier Paula Cox proclaimed Mary Prince — who was born into slavery in 1788 — as the National Hero for 2012 at an Induction Ceremony held this evening [June 16] at Barr’s Bay Park.
The Induction Ceremony was attended by over 200 people, and featured an interpretative dance entitled “A Woman Named Prince” based on an excerpt from Mary Prince’s autobiography, which was choreographed by Conchita Ming and performed by Shahnel Woodley.
The programme also included a dramatic reading by Tramaine Stovell, music by Kassandra Caines, Negro Spirituals sung by Marsden First United Methodist Church’s Praise Team and MP Ashfield Devent reading an a biography of Mary Prince.
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 then 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 1829, Wood refused to either manumit her or allow her to be bought out of his control. His refusal meant that she could not return to Antigua, without returning to slave status.
45 minute video of the Ceremony:
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.
In 2008, Bermuda’s first selected National Hero was Dame Lois Browne-Evans. Last year, honourees included Dr. Edgar.Fitzgerald Gordon, Dr. Pauulu Kamarakafego [Dr. Roosevelt Browne] and Sir Henry ‘Jack’ Tucker.
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