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The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave Narrative

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,636 ratings  ·  128 reviews
Born in Bermuda to a house slave in 1788, Mary Prince suffered the first of many soul-shattering experiences in her life when she was separated from her parents and siblings at the age of twelve. Subjected to bodily and sexual abuse by subsequent masters, she was bought and sold several times before she was ultimately freed.
The first black woman to break the bonds of
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Paperback, 69 pages
Published October 15th 2004 by Dover Publications (first published 1831)
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lauraღ
Jul 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The only thing I wish is that we could have read Mary's story in her own words and her own dialect, "unintelligibility" be damned. I could have also done without a fair bit of the editor's commentary, including the part where he posits that slavery was "a curse to the oppressor scarcely less than to the oppressed: its natural tendency is to brutalise both" and says "I am inclined to doubt whether [...] the master is not even a greater object of compassion than his bondman." Disgusting that he'd ...more
Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}
Oh the horrors of slavery!—How the thought of it pains my heart! But the truth ought to be told of it; and what my eyes have seen I think it is my duty to relate; for few people in England know what slavery is. I have been a slave—I have felt what a slave feels, and I know what a slave knows; and I would have all the good people in England to know it too, that they may break our chains, and set us free.

In 1831 Thomas Pringle, secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, took down Mary Prince's
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Sara Weather
pros

It shows the extreme amount of brutality that goes beyond how media represents slavery. I can understand why this was not picked to be a movie. It does not have a white savior or pretty ending. It is interesting to see how slavery was in the West Indies. I’m also reading Black in Latin America which talks about how slavery impacted slaves there. Reading both of these brings together the shared experiences of slavery. I wish that high schools not only taught black history beyond slavery and
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Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

The History of Mary Prince is a horrific and shocking book to read. I've read historical fiction about slavery before and found it emotionally difficult, but to actually encounter the (almost) authentic words of this slave woman is a completely different experience. I think what I found worst to stomach was the calm, rational way in which she speaks about what happened to her during her life - as though her atrocious treatment was normal. For
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Elliot A
It was heart wrenching to read about this poor woman and her life as a slave.

Many times I had to remind myself that this was an account of actual occurrences and not fiction.

It is beyond my comprehension how people can treat others in such a cruel and gruesome way.

The narration of Mary's experiences was very well done. It conveyed the anguish she had to endure without an unnecessary element of melodrama.

This short text is a great resource to further understand the truth and ugliness that came
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Alison
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The point when this book bought me undone was right at the end, past the horrors of being a personal punching bag, past the body-breaking decade in the salt mines, past the abusive family. No what brought me undone was the abolitionist's prim certification, by three 'respectable' ladies, who had 'examined' Mary Prince, that her scars were, indeed, present. This woman, whose courage, determination, strength of mind and spirit comes very clearly even through the edited narrative, is reduced to a ...more
Prabby
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A painful, insightful and important narrative. Every British person should be required to read this text to acknowledge the full brutalities of colonial slavery. The text was written in a first person narrative due to it being of a biographical nature. The text is so significant in garnering an understanding of the cruelties of slavery even within a "free in England" context. I would implore anyone who is trying to gain a better understanding of slavery to read this as it is such a crucial text ...more
  LunaBel
Mary Prince was born a slave in Bermuda. She publishes the first narrative in Britain of the life of a black woman.


Mary cannot understand why the color of her skin strips her from living a respectable life. She refuses to accept being treated like an animal because of that. Mary describes the physical and emotional torments she suffered from by the hands of different masters. She declares that they do not consider her like a human being. They use her like sheep bought, exploited, and sold;
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Laura McNeal
Aug 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
This is an important book, but not a simple one to recommend. The edition I read is clearly meant to be assigned reading in a class, but I can hardly imagine the teacher--or even professor--who would dare assign it. We're told that Mary's story was copied down word for word and then "pruned" to exclude her errors and render it intelligible. If only someone had thought to keep the unpruned narrative, too, as a historical document, so that we might hear Mary speak. (I didn't find any evidence that ...more
Shannon Couey
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Micheala
It was a short read that I had to do for a university english class. I was expecting something boring, but I was actually taken by Mary's narrative story. It was a rich read, full of facts of how life was for West Indian slaves in that time. The fact that it was a narrative story and not one packed with dialogue helped bring out so many more emotions. We're in her head as she tells us her sad tale of her life. Overall, not a bad read .
Eileen
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

Incredibly tragic but insightful and emotionally compelling perspective of history that cannot be forgotten.
Dana
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
An important little book to read.
Yomiuri
Dec 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave Narrative by Mary Prince is the story of a slave that was born in Bermuda and was forced into the claws of slavery. She had to endure many hardships in her life, like being separated from her family and dehumanized; she was treated as if she were an animal. However, even though she had many different masters and the majority treated her badly she didn’t give up on the fact that she wanted her freedom. She persevered up to the end and even though ...more
Mandy
Dec 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was a story narrated by and former slave Mary Prince. She was being sold to and by the slaves owners more than once. When Mary was narrating the story, she explained how she was suffering when she was being passed as an object from masters to masters. I think it was horrifying to see how slaveowners beat their slaves like they hate them when the slaves did nothing to them but was forced to do everything for the masters. I think it was a good thing how Mary always had hope in freedom. It was ...more
Danielle {halfdesertedstreets}
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic, ebooks, 2016, memoir
A harrowing but important personal account of abuse and degradation.
Elisha
This is a difficult book to rate and review, owing to its subject matter, its status as truth, and the editorial interference that I felt threatened to define it. It's not for me to judge the quality and the storytelling of a slave narrative because, at the end of the day, it's a lived experience, and it's utterly abominable no matter how it is written. Mary Prince certainly succeeds in her goal of communicating the horrors of slavery and that's what really matters here. However, the reason why ...more
Andrea
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gender, struggle, slavery
Autobiographical yet co-produced, this is as much an autobiography of the indomitable Mary Prince in all that is said, as the evangelical abolitionists who supported her bid for freedom in all that is left unsaid.

Mary Prince--born into slavery in Brackish Pond, Bermuda in 1788, she lived with her mother and siblings with the Williams family, helping take care of a little girl named Betsy who 'used to lead me about by the hand, and call me her little nigger' (57).

[caption id="attachment_1813"
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Dave Carroll
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
An important book and a landmark publication as the first literary work from Bermuda. This 1830 work was the narrative of a women born into slavery in the island nation who was sold at 12 years old along with her younger sisters to pay for the wedding of her owner's daughter.

Bouncing around the West Indies to the saltworks of Turks and domestic slavery in Antigua, she was brought to England where slavery was illegal and her fight for manumission began.

Published as a pamphlet by the
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Sarah
Jan 31, 2020 rated it liked it
I read this for my senior thesis on sexuality in slave narratives. Mary Prince's story was a slave narrative marketed especially towards the women who were part of the abolition movement. It has graphic scenes of violence and implied sexual violence. Prince's narrative is a peculiar mix of the sentimental and the outraged. A large part of the former could be attributed to her editors who published the piece to forward the anti-slavery cause.

As a piece of leisure reading, I expect this book
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Susan Williams
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short but gruesome

I have read crueler accounts of the lives of slaves by themselves but this is unique in being about slavery in the West Indian islands. Luckily, Mary did not work in the sugar cane fields but her life mostly as a domestic worker was marked by some truly nasty owners, nonetheless. And I think she may have left some more unsavoury bits out such as what happened when she had to bathe her master. She comes across as intelligent, hard working and loving when treated well. Her
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Abigail Satnarine
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
”Oh the horrors of slavery!_ How the thought of it pains my heart! But the truth ought to be told of it; and what my eyes have seen I think it is my duty to relate; for few people in England know what slavery is. I have been a slave_I have felt what a slave feels, and I know what a slave knows; and I would have all the good people in England to know it too, that they may break our chains, and set us free.” - The History Of Mary Prince (1831)

A vivid and painful yet important narrative that
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Nina
Sep 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly poignant and gripping memoir of the horrors of slavery in the British colonies, and a call for abolition from the oppressed in its most stark. While we cannot say how much of Prince's narrative is editorialized and used for the means of Pringle and the white abolitionist movement to appeal to European Christians, this story is rich of human good and evil juxtaposed in a nonsensical and unjust society, in which people are viewed as objects to be bought and sold; this narrative will ...more
Courtney (courtney & books)
Again this is another primary source document I read for class. I found the narrative section really harrowing. I would definitely recommend this as a good source to read. It recounts the narrative of Mary Prince, a slave during the Victorian era. This document was made by the Anti-Slave Society and because of this and because it is recounted through an editor, the document is modified and somewhat biased (so keep that in mind). I don’t know if I can say I enjoyed the text, but it was very good.
Abi
I read this for my English class. It was very sad, with prose that was straightforward and impactful. I can see why it aided the anti-slavery movement - it doesn't pull its punches, and comes across as authentic. The narrative related is incredibly awful, tragic, sad, etc. and hard to connect to the realities of today. I think it was a difficult but important read, as it gives insight into the personal impacts of slavery and the historical context of the time. 4 stars.
Bostonlotus
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: schoolbooks, 17-tbr
What if all you ever knew was heartache? What if you only ever experienced pain, beatings, and hatred? What if nobody ever told you your true worth? Would you fight for your right to be free? Would you dwell on those few brief moments when you encountered love and happiness? Would you be able to believe in God and your righteousness in His eyes? Mary Prince did. And this is her story. Give it a read - It'll make you think.
Hannah Belyea
The true and heartbreaking story of Mary Prince as she details her care as a slave from childhood to womanhood, and the obstacles she faced in gaining her freedom from her greedy slaveowners, even with the help of kindhearted folk. Prince will pull at the heartstrings of all readers with this dreary but hopeful tale. What will it take for Mary to escape the terrors of her owners?
Kristen
This was fine. Little more than an essay (about 40 pages), it describes Mary's journey of a slave in different West Indian countries. Much of the essay was amendments, which didn't add much, and I felt slowed down the flow. It's a good read for those interested in slavery in the Caribbean, but I wish it was more so her narrative and not someone else's additions at the end.
Andrew Turnbull
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The unpalatable truth.

Just as we will be horrified by the sins of our slave owning descendants, this account serves to remind us that slavery is here today and human nature has not changed. Western leaders still hold on to some of the same colonial conceits as in MaryPrince' day. A heartfelt and shocking account.
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Mary Prince (c. 1788-after 1833) was born into slavery in Devonshire Parish, Bermuda. While she was later living in London, her autobiography, The History of Mary Prince (1831), was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in the United Kingdom.

Belonging to the genre of slave narratives, this first-hand description of the brutalities of enslavement, released at a time when
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