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Prince Among Slaves

The true story of an African Muslim prince enslaved in America



In 1788, the slave ship Africa set sail from the Gambia River, headed for American shores with its hold laden with hundreds bound in chains. Eight months later, a handful of survivors found themselves for sale in Natchez, Mississippi. One of them, 26-year-old Abdul Rahman Ibrahima, a highly educated African prince, and heir to a kingdom made an astonishing claim to Thomas Foster, the plantation owner who purchased him at auction, that the bedraggled Abdul Rahman's father would pay gold for his return. Foster dismissed the claim as a lie.

Prince Among Slaves tells the story of Abdul Rahman, trilingual, a military general and heir to a West African nation the size of Great Britain, who did not return to Africa for 40 years. In that time, he toiled on Foster's plantation. He married a fellow slave, Isabella, and they had nine children. Gradually, he also became the most famous African in America, attracting the support of President John Quincy Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay. Abdul Rahman returned to Africa at the age 67, only to fall ill and die just as word of his return reached his former kingdom. Throughout a life of Shakespearean dimensions, Abdul Rahman maintained his dignity and hope for the freedom of his people.

"…West African societies were well-developed and literate, but people think of them as primitive and vulnerable. But now we know African history doesn't start at zero..." TIME Magazine