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Mary Prince, our Caribbean Heroine

Thomas C. Famous. Photo: Provided
George Somers was a privateer or licenced pirate who was given permission to plunder as long as he gave a cut to the British crown. Photo: Provided
George Somers was a privateer or licenced pirate who was given permission to plunder as long as he gave a cut to the British crown. Photo: Provided
Mary Prince, a black Bermudian, born in Devonshire, witnessed a life time of slavery, beatings and lynchings in various Caribbean islands, including; Antigua, Bermuda and Turks and Caicos Islands, and published a book that became a part of the abolitionist movement that led to the freedom of enslaved Africans throughout the Caribbean. Photo: Provided
Mary Prince, a black Bermudian, born in Devonshire, witnessed a life time of slavery, beatings and lynchings in various Caribbean islands, including; Antigua, Bermuda and Turks and Caicos Islands, and published a book that became a part of the abolitionist movement that led to the freedom of enslaved Africans throughout the Caribbean. Photo: Provided
Thomas C. Famous

Like many others of my age, we were never taught the full story of Caribbean or African History.

We all grew up fully believing, to different degrees, whatever we were taught in school.

Basically, European History. Specifically, British History.

Fast forward a few decades, we all now have access to historical facts, that we never knew before.

This has led to many discoveries of who we are as a people and what has been done, in the distant and not so distant past, that has led to our present state.

That being centuries of; colonialism, slavery and racism.

As a people, we cannot change the past but we can indeed, shape the future.

As such, two years ago, in Bermuda, we began a journey to correct a historical wrong. Namely, the 1999 naming of Sir George Somers, as a part of our Emancipation/Cup Match Celebrations.

Political compromises

Somers Day was first added to Cup Match celebrations in 1947.

For those who do not know, it was the former United Bermuda Party (UBP), as opposition, who basically argued, for Sir George Somers’ name to remain a part of the Emancipation Celebrations.

Honourable John Barritt, then UBP spokesman for legislative affairs, in the 1999 debate in the House proposed an amendment to keep Sir George Somers name to the holiday.

The then PLP government led by Premier Dame Jennifer Smith, as an act of "political compromise" decided to let the first day of Cup Match be known as Emancipation Day and the second day be known as Somers Day.

The real Somers

Now, let us go back to this little thing called, "Historical Facts".

As stated above, we were all told a sanitised version of what really took place for centuries of European colonisation.

Part of that fable, was this whitewashed version of, who Somers really was.

For those who do not yet know, George Somers was a privateer or licenced pirate who was given permission to plunder as long as he gave a cut to the British crown.

With that licence, he travelled to the Caribbean and South America raiding Spanish colonies and taking whatever he wished.

In 1595, he burnt down Caracas, Venezuela as the Spanish refused to pay him any money.

Let us also bear in mind that in 1609, when his ship was blown onto the shores of Bermuda, he was actually on his way to Virginia.

Essentially, he was on his way to take, by force, land that belonged to Native Americans, specifically the Algonquian tribes, who had constant skirmishes with English coloniser John Smith.

Our National Hero

At the same time that we were being fed sanitised stories of Somers, our own heroes and heroines stories were being hidden or completely destroyed.

One such story was the story of Mary Prince, a black Bermudian, born in Devonshire, Her father being held in enslavement by one David Trimmingham.

Mary Prince witnesssed a life time of slavery, beatings and lynchings in various Caribbean islands, including; Antigua, Bermuda and Turks and Caicos Islands.

In the year 1828 he went to England as a servant for the Woods family.

There she met abolitionist Thomas Pringle and was encouraged to tell and write about the truths of slavery in the Caribbean.

In 1831, her published story then became a part of the abolitionist movement that led to the freedom of enslaved Africans throughout the Caribbean.

So, with all of that being said, I now ask you, my fellow people of the Caribbean, what is morally and historically right? Who do you think we should honour during celebrations about the freedom of enslaved Africans?

The privateer and coloniser George Somers? Or the enslaved person, whose story helped to free enslaved Africans across the entire Caribbean?

6 Responses to “Mary Prince, our Caribbean Heroine”

  • Diaspora (12/02/2020, 12:52) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    @Thomas Famous, good read. Indeed, the colonialists, invaders, privateers, crusaders.....etc espoused and whitewashed European History, pretending, lying.....etc about what really happened. They pretended to have discovered a new world( how can you discover what already existed?) and had to re-educate the primitive natives——Caribs and Arawaks—-and African slaves. We were forced fed much nonsense about the exploits of Christopher Columbus, Francis Drake, John Hawkins, Oliver Cromwell, Thomas Wolsey, Henry Morgan, Henry VIII, War of Roses, 100 Year War.....etc. They pretended there was no Black or Caribbean History or accomplishments to narrate; they dismissed the valiant and courageous deeds of Prince Klaas, Nat Turner, The Baptist War, Gaspar Yagna, Mary Prince, Haitian Revolution——General Toussaint Louverture......etc. The Red West Indian Reader was without substance; its value was that it taught how to read, which they didn’t see as important.
  • Black Nationalist (12/02/2020, 14:17) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    the man speaking good again
  • Kingfish (12/02/2020, 15:00) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    Excellent piece, keep them coming. This month is Black History in the US and every year we learn something new and interesting about black history not just from the American stand point but world wide. For those of you who may be interested in some history of Caribbean Achievers here is an excellent book. Caribbean American Heritage, A History of High Achievers by Elliot Bastien & Sandra Bernard-Bastien. Available from: www.caheritagebook.com, info@ caheritagebook.com.

    It takes us back 100's of years to the present and revels the achievements by Caribbean people.
  • Young Lad (12/02/2020, 17:31) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    Makes me want to study further.
  • Excellent! (13/02/2020, 09:27) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    Very good and interesting piece! I enjoy your work and look forward to learning more 'real' Caribbean history.
  • Thoams Christopher Famous (14/02/2020, 06:09) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Thank you all for your continued support.


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