Mary Prince Named 2012 Bermuda National Hero

June 8, 2012 | 54 Comments

The Naming and Recognition Committee in conjunction with the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs announced today that Mary Prince — who was born into slavery — will be recognised as the 2012 National Hero.

Mary Prince was a Bermudian woman born into slavery at Brackish Pond, now known as Devonshire Marsh in Devonshire Parish, 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, Betsey Williams. 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. 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.

A Government spokesperson said, “The public will recall that last year three persons were honoured. However this year although nominations were not solicited, the Naming and Recognition Committee received more than a dozen unsolicited letters, more specifically from teenaged students from both the public and private schools recommending that Mary Prince be designated. The letters were sent to the Committee via the Bermuda African Diaspora Heritage Trail (ADHT) Foundation.

“Historical accounts tell us that Mary Prince is considered to be Bermuda’s most famous slave. She was the first black woman to publish a book about the brutality of slavery. Mary Prince’s book ‘The History of Mary Prince’ published in 1831, is significant because it was instrumental in helping to dismantle slavery in Bermuda and the Caribbean.

“According to biographical records, it was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in the UK. A first-hand description of the brutalities of enslavement, released at a time when slavery was still legal in the British Caribbean colonies and Bermuda, it had a galvanising effect on the anti-slavery movement. Mary Prince spoke of slavery with the authority of personal experience.

American Poet Maya Angelou introduces readings from Mary Prince’s 1831 autobiography:

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Patrice Minors said, “Mary Prince is a Bermudian heroine who deserves to receive this singular honour. As a personal account, Mary Prince’s story contributed to the debate about slavery in a manner different from reasoned analysis or statistical arguments. It was direct and authentic. And we are pleased that she will join the other National Hero inductees this month.”

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.

National Heroes Day Official Public Holiday will be observed on Monday June 18, 2012. This year an induction ceremony will take place on Saturday June 16, at 6.00 p.m. at Barr’s Bay Park and will feature commemorative musical, dance and spoken word performances.

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  1. Lecture To Be Held On History Of Mary Prince | Bernews.com | October 28, 2013
  1. Hudson says:

    An interesting take on National Heroes Day... while I don't disagree with honoring those who paved the way, and Mary Prince is certainly one of them, I'm curious to see how long this government will take before honoring any white persons. My guess? Never.

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    • Ryan says:

      They honored one last year! Geez.

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    • junior burchall says:

      PSA (since you clearly didn't know):

      jack tucker was WHITE.

      in fact, not only was he white, but he was THE ranking white supremacist businessman amongst the infamous 'Forty Thieves' - the cabal of well-heeled, Front Street criminals who willfully abused their economic and political power to terrorize the Black community into submission.

      at the risk of grossly understating that which was painfully obvious to those with an iota of historical knowledge, ol' boy jack was no friend of the negro people. yet, he was honoured, alongside Pauulu Kamarakafego and Dr. E. F. Gordon (whom he once derisively referred to - in the House of Assembly, no less - as a 'monkey') by the PLP government.

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      • Tommy Chong says:

        You're full of it & your comment reads like a true plp propagandist.

        PSA Since YOU clearly don’t know! Sir Henry Tucker has never been quoted as referring to anyone as a monkey. In every single quote of his ever recorded he refers to African descended people as, “COLOURED!” He also was known to have pointed out many times that the island would be a better place if the two main races here were treated equally. This is probably why plp slipped him into heroes day pick because as always they have to make everything they do be based on a race card.

        These are two REAL QUOTES from Sir Henry Tucker.

        “I am satisfied that what is now taking place in Bermuda will further the legitimate interests of coloured people so that their share of community prosperity, while now large, will, within a short time, conform even more closely to population proportions.”

        “One of the ways in which we can be in contact—people of our two races—is to integrate primary schools. Children at the age of five, when they go into the government school system, are without prejudice.”

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        • LMAWTFO says:

          Surely you jest with the way you are trying to down play Henry's well known abuse of this islands black people. I normally agree wit hthe things you say, but not today. Today you are dead wrong. The statements that you gave are correct, however them came after all the bad things he done.
          I got a quote direct from him too, "They can't and shouldn't have all this property, its too beautiful and too vast for them to have!"
          Who do you think he is referring to?

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    • LOL (original TM*) says:

      A white person was honored but not by them selves as Dame Loise, or this individual. My thing is that this Hero's day is political I would bet that in the next few elections as long as the PLP's margin is too close for comfort we will continue to see heroes that were slaves or political figures rightly or wrongly nominated. Just an observation and prediction.

      LOL

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  2. navin johnson says:

    Sir Henry Tucker

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  3. media says:

    @ Hudson - FYI - Sir Henry Tucker was honoured as a National Hero in 2011. He was a white Bermudian.

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  4. junior burchall says:

    Mary Prince is an EXCELLENT choice - a true Bermudian Hero.

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    • pepper says:

      At the end of the day who the hell cares about a hero ? in my opinion we have no heros !!!!!

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  5. Frank'N'Onions says:

    I still think we should have kept the Queens' birthday AND had a National Heroes Day. They did it one year, why couldn't we have continued the tradition?

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    • I gotta be me says:

      Exactly! I don't know why we could not have kept the Queen's Birthday Holiday AND named a hero too on the same day? This pathetic govt couldn't organize a riot... or maybe this is their way of trying just that!

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      • Tommy Chong says:

        Because plp wants independence & this is one part of their scheme to bring it about.

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  6. Erica says:

    What an excellent choice. Nominations coming in from school aged children make it even better.

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  7. Hudson says:

    My apologies - I did not realise that Sir Henry Tucker was honoured last year. Point taken.

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    • Rory says:

      Of course you would not realize. Why didnt you check the facts before making that statement. Typical

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      • Rose says:

        Get a life Rory, Hudson did apoloies

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        • Come Correct says:

          For real, to be honest I didn't know either, but I knew about the rest. But my question is, who will our children honor?

          Intro:
          One civilization is not complete without it's art
          The highest form of expression of human intelligence
          You have have become complacent
          Sitting down and allowing the other nations to run away with everything
          You have become a bunch of consumers
          You are creators
          rise up mighty people and accomplish what you will
          Without confidence you're twice defeated in the race of life

          Verse 1:
          They took away the voices, that gave the people pride
          Now we're plunging into darkness
          We all have to play our part, make a bold start
          Every disc jock, tell every artist
          Media houses, we notice you love support the slackness
          How so much alcohol in our parties
          While the girls a broke out
          And the something she drinked knocked her out
          Now she doesn't care where they prop her up

          Refrain:
          It's times like these
          I'm missing our heroes
          Times like these i really wish they where around
          Shouldn't have to be like this
          Marcus Garvey
          We know that you tried your best, but we'll to the rest

          Verse 2:
          They bred up shotaz them, now we have a lot of them
          Prsion pack up, now the grave will be packed with dead
          The broke the national bird wing
          Sell we out clean
          Not sure if we own a god dam thing
          Jamrock why are we giving in to the trick that they have been tricking us from the beginning
          Parents you need to awake from the slumbering
          It's our children's blood that is running

          Refrain:
          It's times like these
          I'm missing our heroes
          Times like these i really wish they where around
          Shouldn't have to be like this
          Bob Marley
          We know that you never died in vain
          We're gonna rise again ....heeeeeeey

          Verse 3:
          People use the fist hold the bell
          Beat promise until it swells
          Nobody will hear if you don't yell
          Listen what they tell you about the bucket that go well
          Black woman put on you baggie
          That something should not sell
          That's how we know society's cruel
          Ask who placed the crab into barrel
          PM, opposition stop with the quarrel
          Unite, come together, teach the people how fi chill

          Refrain:
          It's times like these
          I'm missing our heroes
          Times like these i really wish they where around
          Shouldn't have to be like this
          Oh Miss Lou we need you
          It's the first I've heard of this
          Hundred and counting on the murder list

          Repeat Verse 1:
          They took away the voices, that gave the people pride
          Now we're plunging into darkness
          We all have to play our part, make a bold start
          Every disc jock, tell every artist
          Media houses, we notice you love support the slackness
          How so much alcohol in our parties
          While the girls a broke out
          And the something she drinked knocked her out
          Now she doesn't care where they prop her up

          Refrain:
          It's times like these
          I'm missing our heroes
          Times like these i really wish they where around
          We need you, we need you, we need you
          Sam Sharpe
          We need you, we need you, we need you
          Nanny... yeaaaah

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  8. Maria Jacobs says:

    I thought that the point of having National hero's day was to select people that the youth could feel a connection with. I am not taking away from the plight of Mary Prince, but our national hero should be someone in our recent community.

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    • Itsaboutallofus says:

      Why? I would think this is an opportunity to educate some on the heroes of the past as well. We shouldn't discard history.

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    • Dennis Williams says:

      Did you not read the article...It states “The public will recall that last year three persons were honoured. However this year although nominations were not solicited, the Naming and Recognition Committee received more than a dozen unsolicited letters, more specifically from teenaged students from both the public and private schools recommending that Mary Prince be designated."

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    • Proud2BeBermudian says:

      No, the point is to honor those who have made remarkable contributions to our country and to educate the people of Bermuda on those who came before us. If this initiative continues (as it should) there will be plenty time to recognise our contemporary heroes.

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  9. terry says:

    Differance between honoured and proclaimed.

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  10. Really? says:

    I will be celebrating the Queens Birthday the rightful occasion for this day. And a true Bermudian Hero our head of state for 60 years what an achievement.

    RULE BRITANNIA !!!!!

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    • Errin Butterfield says:

      Monarchy = untouchable = 60 years of rule not an achievement it's by design

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      • Hmmmmmm says:

        It is a sacrifice of a life. The queen is not free, she is bound by duty and obligations. It is a restricted life.

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  11. Nuff Said says:

    @Really, I TOTALLY AGREE.... GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.. If you didn't have a chance to see the jubilee festivities, i am sorry as it truly showed a country coming together through diversity. The inclusion of all the commonwealth a true sign of inclusion across the world.. What a shame for this year not to at least celebrate the 60yrs one person that has dedicated herself to us all.
    Just ask yourself, what has the UK done for you? Ask yourself if you know someone who is either in school or living in the UK and benefiting from her inclusion!

    What a shame!watch if anything, the jubilee concert and see all those people waving the flags!

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  12. Liars! says:

    lm tired of black everything eevn if it doesnt work

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  13. Roger says:

    One aim here, let's play the race slavery card in the lead up to the election with somebody 99% of the populous have never heard of. What toss.

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  14. Roger says:

    None of my blended family, black or white, have ever heard of her. Great selection.

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    • Roger Sherratt says:

      I am deeply saddened to read this kind of comment about an exceptional women - Mary Prince - and I strongly suggest that "Roger" and every member of his blended family take the time and effort to read "The History of Mary Prince" to gain an understanding of the importance of her story and it's influence in changing attitudes towards the evils of slavery. In fact, I would go further and suggest that anyone - black or white - should take the time to read her autobiography. Mary Prince was more than a National Hero. She was an International Hero.

      Having said that I am somewhat disappointed that we have not had some of our more modern heroes also recognized for their achievements.

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  15. Iwantthetruth says:

    So shes a hero for publishing a book on slavery? HA HA HA HA!! What did she do for Bermudians to be called a "National Hero"

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    • J Starling says:

      You mean apart from her books publication being one of the principal moments contributing to the emancipation of slavery in 1834? Thus leading to the end of slavery in Bermuda? I mean, sure, there were other factors (economics mostly, and, true, the emancipation of slavery led to other problems following White intransigence here - and elsewhere - as well as the wage slavery we know today), but still, you really want to belittle this?

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  16. So tired says:

    Let's honour the living for a change. At least they'll be known.

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    • pepper says:

      So tired I agree with you.. we should honour the living , I would like to see Jim Woolridge as a national hero.

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  17. HappninBoy says:

    {A Government spokesperson said, “The public will recall that last year three persons were honoured. However this year although nominations were not solicited, the Naming and Recognition Committee received more than a dozen unsolicited letters, more specifically from teenaged students from both the public and private schools recommending that Mary Prince be designated. The letters were sent to the Committee via the Bermuda African Diaspora Heritage Trail (ADHT) Foundation.}

    Unsolicited, all from teenaged students, AND, all sent to the ADHT.

    It's a miracle.

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  18. K. Shakir says:

    Mary Prince is an excellent choice as a National Hero.......Her story will be a valued history lesson for some!

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  19. floatswitch says:

    I'm sick and tired of this slavery fixation some people have and who enjoy every moment they have to stuff it down out throats. It was bad enough with Sally Basset, a border-line serial killer! I don't care about slaves, never knew one, doubt you guys did also.....so selection committee get a life! I will be celebrating the Queens's birthday

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    • J Starling says:

      Dude, serious,, WTF? Where to start? In the context of the brutality and depravity of the slave system that Sally Basset lived in, her actions should be seen as legitimate self-defense against a system organised and benefitting serial killers. She should be seen as embodying the spirit of resistance and liberty for all, fighting against a system of injustice. FWIW, the resistance against slavery was not restricted solely to the Africans (although post-1776 the ideology of race was crystallised in a divide and conquer move), and Irish, Scottish, Native American and others (including poor English) were involved in rebellions, mutinies, insurrections and revolutions against slavery.

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    • LMAWTFO says:

      YOU HAVE GOT TO BE AN ANGRY PERSON TO SAY WHAT YOU SAID! YOU ARE MAKING A LOT OF MY COUNTRYMEN LOOK LIKE A$$ES! I HOPE ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS BEAT YOU WITH THAT SAME STICK YOU ARE USING TO BEAT OTHERS!

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  20. Red Flag says:

    I'm pleased to learn about this exciting lady who's life is a testimony of our unfortunate past and a true reminder of how far we have come and based on some of the comments here how far we have yet to go. This is a great choice and I will be honoring her on National Heroes Day.

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  21. TheFuture says:

    Racism is alive and well and just in case there are naive black people who still chant the "can't we all get along" song, read the comments on this item! It is truly a shame that black people still don't get it in 2012: there were ENSLAVED people in Bermuda NOT SLAVES. The difference is huge. Mary Prince and all others should not be defined by a temporary situation they were in, but by their permanent qualities, nothing less than Divine I might add.

    As for celebrating the wickedness of the UK, that ranks right up there with celebrating Hitler's victories. Funny how people claim "it wasn't me" yet celebrate the wickedness of their chosen leaders, a history written in blood.

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  22. Leroy says:

    The truth to her brilliance is that her story and the importance of her story is still around today. We can try to act like Slavery did not happen. Even here in Bermuda. How many of you have read her narrative? History has and will forever have Mary Prince’s name attached to it. And that is a great accomplishment. However we may see her significance. People will be searching her name long after many of us are gone. That has got to mean something. Especially to those people of her own place of birth who considered her story and her narrative irrelevant.

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  23. street wise says:

    I'm sick & tired of the PLP/BIU throwing their political blackness in my face all the time. Seriously, I'll be glad when this sorry lot are history! The PLP/BIU occupation of our Island is getting extremely tedious. Not to mention, expensive!

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  24. Gotta love it! says:

    Be better of with Johnny Barnes!

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  25. Manipulation! says:

    Can't you all see the manipulation of the naming of Mary Prince as our Hero of 2012, if you belive several Private and Public High School students wrote in for this, well I have a bridge in NY to sell you. I have my suspicions about this as I did in the naming of one of the ferries 'Vanturilla'the first black to land on our shores...All manipulation by the PLP machinery... just think which minister is behind this. I too would like to see the naming of people of recent times.

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    • LMAWTFO says:

      My daughter was one of those children who wrote in, so to say what your saying is UNTRUE!! People like you are why this island is always at each others throats, because you love the segregation of our soceity. Try writing a positive note next time fella.

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      • PH says:

        and who told your daughter to write in? My guess it is her school teacher, who was following orders from?

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        • LMAWTFO says:

          Nope, your wrong again! Do a little reasearch before you run off shooting your mouth because you sound ignorant.

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  26. Bullseye says:

    I think this is a great choice. This woman had alot of spirit in the face of adversity the likes of which Bermudians today do not face.

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