Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Prince from Natchez

Did you know that Natchez once had a Prince? Right around the beginning of our country, a remarkable man came to Natchez.

Abdul Rahman was trilingual, a successful military general, and the heir to Futa Jalon, the West African Empire, which was the size of Great Britain. However, during a war with another African country, he was captured and sold into slavery.

He was bought by Thomas Foster of Natchez and brought to his small, struggling plantation. Abdul Rahman told everyone that he was a Prince and his father would be happy to pay a ransom for his return. Of course, no one paid any attention, but they did start calling him Prince. He was a valuable slave and helped Foster develop the planation into a successful, profitable venture. He also married and had 9 children.

Through improbable circumstances, twenty years into his enslavement he was reunited with a marooned sailor that his father had rescued decades earlier. This event brought the first public attention to the Prince and over the next several years led him to become the most famous African in America. He regained his freedom, spoke to paid audiences across the country, dined in the White House, became a national celebrity, and eventually returned to Africa.

His story of courage and forbearance under the meanest of circumstances is a powerful drama that not only speaks directly to the African American experience, but also to the human experience. His incredible story was first told in 1977 in the book Prince Among Slaves by Terry Alford, which was republished in 2007 as a 30th Anniversary Edition. The book was made into a film by Unity Productions Foundations (UPF) and was shown on PBS in 2008. The book and the film are in our Library available for checkout.

Through a grant from the National Endowment for Humanities, UPF is sponsoring a series of events all over the country, showing the film along with lectures and discussions on the issues raised in the film. As the home of the Prince, Natchez has been chosen as one of the sites. Our event will be held on Sunday, June 5 in the City Auditorium. We are very fortunate to have the author of the book, Terry Alford, as one of our speakers. The event is free, and attendees will receive a free copy of the DVD. We'll have more details later, but put it in your calendar.

Just think. People all across America will be talking about a famous person from Natchez. Who knows what kind of interest in or visits to our City this may cause! You'd better learn the story, in case tourists ask you abut the Prince.


  1. I'm really looking forward to this event and have marked my calendar to attend. Thank your posting this!

    Elodie Pritchartt

  2. I'm really looking forward to this event and have marked my calendar to attend. Thank your posting this!

  3. I am looking forward to facilitating this event because the event is in Natchez.It is as if the saga has come full circle. I think Natchez becomes an environment and atmosphee of racial reconciliation and intellectual contributions.

    Amad Shakur
    Unity Productions Foundtion

  4. Too bad I didn't get to catch it as I am a 7th generation decendant of Prince.