A 'Portable' Overview Of A Complex, Compelling History

Genevieve Valentine’s latest novel is Icon. Mary Prince’s story is, some ways, a familiar narrative. Born a slave around 1788, she was abused a mistress, Mrs. Wood — beaten, forced work ill, refused the chance to buy freedom. Eventually, she sought emancipation on English soil. When she declares "All slaves want to be free — to be free is very sweet," it feels of a piece with the general story we, as a nation, are told about black women in the 19th century: downtrodden, then free. as excerpted in The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers ,Prince’s biography offers much more complexity. Prince marries a free man, a situation the Woodses can’t quite reconcile; emancipation begins with the Woods kicking out in a fit of pique. The account, published by employer Mr. Pringle, made Pringle the object of a libel suit brought Prince to court. in this excerpt, Prince delivers a pointed rebuke to anyone who believes that era’s dominant narrative, "that the slaves do not need better usage, do not want to be free." I talk a lot about being "in conversation." Sometimes the links […]

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