During a ceremony two days ago, Mary Prince, the daughter of two slaves, born in 1788 at Brackish Pond in Devonshire, now known as Devonshire Marsh, was pronounced a national hero of Bermuda, as Owain Johnston-Barnes reports.
Her mother was owned by Charles Myners, but when Mr Myners died later that year, both Mary and her mother were sold to Captain Darrell, who gave Mary to his granddaughter Betsey Williams where she served as a playmate and nurse.
At the age of 12, she was sold for 38 pounds to Captain John Ingham of Spanish Point, where she was repeatedly beaten and flogged by Mrs Ingham. After suffering permanent injuries to her back by her beatings she ran away, only be returned to her master by her father.
In 1806, she was sold to a Mr Dill, who sent her to work in the salt pans in the Turks and Caicos for ten years.
She returned to Bermuda in 1816 and was sold again in 1818 to John Adams Wood for $300 and sent to Antigua to work as a slave.
In Antigua, she met and married Daniel James, a former slave who bought his freedom, but when her master heard about the nuptials she was severely beaten.
In 1828, Wood and his family took Mary to London to work as a servant, but Mary again ran away and met Thomas Pringle, an abolitionist writer and secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society.
She was encouraged to write her memoirs, and in 1931 The History of Mary Prince was published, detailing her life as a slave in Bermuda and the British Caribbean.
Her story was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in the United Kingdom, and helped to galvanise the anti-slavery movement.
A Bermudian slave who became the face of the anti-slavery movement has been formally named a national hero.
In a ceremony at Barr’s Bay Park this evening, more than 200 people gathered to remember the life and sacrifices of Mary Prince, who was born into slavery in 1788 in Bermuda.
Her autobiography, The History of Mary Prince, made history when it was published in 1831, detailing firsthand the brutality of slavery in Bermuda and the British Caribbean.
Addressing the crowd, Premier Paula Cox said that while we today put a great deal of focus on our material goods, Ms Prince was a woman who risked everything on principle.
“Mary Prince is the hero of her own story,” Premier Cox said. “She is a woman who stood up for principle. She is a woman who stepped out of her comfort zone, and she is a woman who felt we have to become the change that we want.
“She did it at considerable risk, cost and peril to herself and here tonight it is certainly a privilege for us all to celebrate and acknowledge and salute the 2012 National Hero.”
Reading the official proclamation, she said: “Her words live on in the pages of her autobiography, a firsthand description of slavery whose publication in the UK in 1831, while slavery was still legal in Bermuda and the British Caribbean, contributed to its abolition in Bermuda and the Caribbean.”
As the Premier formally named Ms Prince a national hero, the crowd stood in applause.
Ms Prince is the fifth person named a national hero, following Dame Lois Browne-Evans, Dr Edgar ‘Mazumbo’ Gordon, Sir Henry “Jack” Tucker and Dr Pauulu Kamarakafego.
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Patrice Minors said that because last year three national heroes had been named, there was not an intention to name a new national hero this year.
However that plan was changed after the Induction Committee received 12 unsolicited letters from members of the public calling for Ms Prince to be celebrated this year.
Ms Minors said: “In the past week or so I have been particularly heartened by the way that all seem to have come together to celebrate this year’s selection of National Hero.”
During the outdoor ceremony, the audience were treated to singing performances by Kassandra Caines, granddaughter of Dame Lois Browne-Evans, the Marsden First United Methodist Church Praise Team.
Induction Committee Member and PLP MP Ashfield DeVent read a brief biography of Ms Prince, while Tramaine Stovell performed a dramatic reading and Shahnel Woodley performed an interpretive dance choreographed by Conchita Ming.
Wanda Ming, from Pembroke, said Ms Prince was a perfect selection for National Hero because of her contribution to Bermuda and the Caribbean.
“If it wasn’t for people like Mary Prince who were willing to take what was I’m sure a big chance to do the right thing, who knows where we would be,” she said.
For more pictures of the ceremony click
For the original report and a gallery of photos go to http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20120616/NEWS/120619988