Prince Among Slaves responded to a whisper from across the centuries which seemed to say, Remember me. My efforts will have met my expectations if they fulfill the promise of the Hadith: Whosoever records historical facts concerning a believer has, as it were, brought him back to life. —
Terry Alford, Prince Among Slaves, 206.
In Prince Among Slaves, Terry Alford reconstructs the story of Abd al-Rahman Ibrahima, the Muslim son of a West African king who was captured, enslaved, and lived most of his life on a plantation outside of Natchez, Mississippi, before gaining his freedom and returning to Africa shortly before his death in 1829. As remarkable as Ibrahimas story doubtless remains, the Slave Journeys database reminds us it was part of a larger whole; he was one of 12.5 million documented African men and women who were enslaved and taken aboard slave ships to cross the Atlantic to labor in plantations and mines in the Americas (in 1820, there were four times as many Africans who had crossed the Atlantic as Europeans). Dehumanization was central to the slave system what the scholar Orlando Patterson has called social death. Using examples from Alfords work, discuss at least two significant ways that slave traders and/or plantation owners and their allies tried to take away Ibrahimas humanity. Conversely, what are two aspects of Ibrahimas identity that he was able to maintain? How did he manage to do so? Finally, Id like each of you to conclude your essay with a brief consideration of Alfords concluding statement (quoted above): what does he mean by this? why is it such an important issue for him?