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Gillian Whitlock

narrator of the first slave narrative by a black woman to be published in England, was born, according to that 1833 narrative’s first sentence, “at Brackish-Pond, in Bermuda, on a farm belonging to Mr. Charles Myners.” Both of her parents were enslaved. Her mother was a household slave of Myners, while her father, Prince, “was a sawyer belonging to Mr Trimmingham, a ship-builder at Crow-Lane” (Ferguson, 1997, p. 57). Also known as Mary James and Molly Wood, she married Daniel James in the parish of Saint John’s in Antigua in December 1826.

The opening sentences of A History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself are both conventional and confronting: here is the beginning of a life narrative that places its subject and her parentage and, at the same time, locates this family as “property.” Mary Prince’s History was published in the heat ...