A month ago today on 8 February Bishop Lambe unveiled a Bermuda National Trust plaque at School Lands Cottages honouring the life of Mary Prince (1788-1833) who recounted the important female slave narrative of 1831, saying it is a reminder of her “invaluable contribution towards freedom”.
Mary Prince was born into slavery in Bermuda’s Devonshire Parish in about 1788. The 1831 narrative of her life ‘The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave’ was the first published account of the life of a female slave and had a huge impact on the abolition movement.
The Bermuda National Trust acquired School Lands Cottages, just off St John’s Road in Pembroke, in 1981. One of the cottages to the east of the property was the one in which Mary endured cruel treatment at the hands of ‘Captain I’ (John Ingham) and his wife.
Listed as owner of School Lands from 1789 to 1827, John Ingham lived at the property with his wife Mary Spencer Albouy. Mary Prince’s description leaves little doubt that this was the house in which she spent miserable years.
In her narrative, after she was sold to a new owner in 1800, she describes being “given into the charge of his son, a lad about my own age, Master Benjy, who took me to my new home”. Ingham’s oldest child was Benjamin, who was baptised in 1790. ‘Captain I’ and his wife were the worst kind of slave owners, gratuitously cruel to a willing young girl.
Still Mary’s hardships continued: she was sold to a new owner who sent her to make salt in the Turks Islands, where she endured horrific suffering. In 1818, back in Bermuda, she was sold again. This owner eventually took her to London where she found shelter in a Moravian church and the opportunity to tell her story. In 1931 her narrative was published. The slave trade was finally abolished in the British Empire in 1834.
You can read Mary’s narrative here at Project Guttenberg.