Island Lecture Series – January 2019: “‘To be free is very sweet’: The story of Mary Prince, a West Indian slave” Margôt Madisson-MacFadyen

Tuesday, January 15, 2019 | 7 p.m.
SDU Main Building Faculty Lounge | UPEI campus
“To be free is very sweet”: The story of Mary Prince, a West Indian slave
with Dr. Margôt Maddison-MacFadyen


The Island Lecture Series January lecture was Tuesday, January 15, at 7 p.m. in the SDU Main Building Faculty Lounge on the UPEI campus, and featured Dr. Margôt Maddison-MacFadyen speaking on the topic, “To be free is very sweet”: The story of Mary Prince, a West Indian slave.

The story of Bermudian slave Mary Prince is fascinating. In 1828 she freed herself when she walked out her owners’ door in London, England, and never came back. She is the first known black woman to escape colonial enslavement, tell her story of survival, and have it compiled and written down. The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself, first published in 1831, was part of a successful abolitionist strategy that pressured British Parliament to legislate into law freedom for enslaved British subjects throughout the British Empire. This was achieved through the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act that commenced on August 1, 1834. Born in Bermuda in 1787 or 1788, Prince also lived on three other islands: Grand Turk Island and Antigua in the West Indies, and Great Britain. Recent research suggests Prince returned to Antigua in 1833, but her death date is not known. She became a Bermudian National Hero in 2012. Join Dr. Margôt Maddison-MacFadyen on an historical-geographical journey through Mary Prince’s life, where she details primary source evidence that not only confirms Prince’s testimony, but broadens her story of slavery and freedom.
Dr. Margôt Maddison-MacFadyen lives at Rennies Road, PEI. She graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Interdisciplinary PhD Program in 2017. Her non-traditional dissertation is titled “Reclaiming Histories of Enslavement from the Maritime Atlantic and a Curriculum: The History of Mary Prince.” She is the recipient of a 2018 Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Maddison-MacFadyen is currently investigating the latter years of Mary Prince’s life for the Government of Bermuda.


IN THE FIELD (ABOVE): National Archives of Antigua and Barbuda Mary Prince Education Heritage Tour, November 9, 2018. Photo taken at The Historical Tamarind Tree, Bethesda Village. The tamarind tree grows at the convergence of three Antiguan roadways. It marks the site where, in 1951, striking cane cutters met to organize their ultimately successful campaign against sugar barons. Power to the people! Front row (from left, sitting on stone): Zemilia Samuel and Catherine Parker; middle row: Kenisha Joseph, Narisha James, Esther Henry, Ineta Brooks, Margôt Maddison-MacFadyen, and Gary MacFadyen; back row: Olton Mitchell and Kevin Beazer.

AT THE TOP: Spring Garden Moravian Mission Station, Antigua, circa 1822. A member of the Moravian congregation at Spring Garden from 1819, Mary Prince may be one of the figures seated under the Sandbox Tree in the mission’s courtyard. (Engraving by Johann Heinrich Stobwafser.)


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