More than two hundred years after her birth, Mary Prince, a slave who spoke up for the cause of abolition, and whose life story helped sway many, became a National Hero on her home island of Bermuda.
The History of Mary Prince
"I was born at Brackish-Pond in Bermuda, on a farm belonging to Mr. Charles Myners. My mother was a household slave; and my father, whose name was Prince, was a sawyer belonging to Mr. Trimmingham, a ship-builder at Crow-Lane. When I was an infant, old Mr. Myners died, and there was a division of the slaves and other property among the family. I was bought along with my mother by old Captain Darrel, and given to his grandchild, little Miss Betsey Williams....
"I had scarcely reached my twelfth year when my mistress became too poor to keep so many of us at home; and she hired me out to Mrs. Pruden, a lady who lived about five miles off, in the adjoining parish, in a large house near the sea. I cried bitterly at parting with my dear mistress and Miss Betsey, and when I kissed my mother and broters and sisters, I thought my young heart would break, it pained me so. But there was no help; I was forced to go...
"I knew that Mrs. Williams could no longer maintain me; that she was fain to part with me for my food and clothing; and I tried to submit myself to the change. My new mistress was a passionate woman; but yet she did not treat me very unkindly. I do not remember her striking me but once, and that was for going to see Mrs. Williams when I heard she was sick, and staying longer than she had given me leave to do...."
After Mrs. Williams' death, Mary was sold and re-sold to successively cruel masters and finally ended up on Antigua where she became a Moravian and met the man who was to become her husband. (When her owner found out she'd married the man, he had her whipped fifty times.) By the time she told her story, she was living in England in desperate straits.
"I still live in the hope that God will find a way to give me my liberty, and give me back to my husband. I endeavour to keep down my fretting, and to leave all to Him, for he knows what is good for me better than I know myself. Yet, I must confess, I find it a hard and heavy task to do.
"I am often much vexed, and I feel great sorrow when I hear some people in this country say that the slaves do not need better usage, and do not want to be free. They believe the foreign people, [the West Indian planters] who deceive them, and say slaves are happy. I say, Not so. How can slaves be happy when they have the halter round their neck and the whip upon their back? and are disgraced and thought no more of than beasts? and are separated from their mothers, and husbands, and children, and sisters, just as cattle are sold and separated? Is it happiness for a driver in the field to take down his wife or sister or child, and strip them, and whip them in such a disgraceful manner...And then when we are quite done up, who cares for us, more than for a lame horse? This is slavery. I tell it to let English people know the truth; and I hope they will never leave off to pray God, and call loud to the great King of England, till all the poor blacks be given free, and slavery done up for evermore."
To read more of Mary's story, check out The History of Mary Prince.