Poetry | Memorial to Mary Prince

This poem was inspired by a memorial to Mary Prince, a plaque erected at the University of London's Senate House in Russell Square.

Mary Prince, Abolitionis | Antoinette BrooksMary Prince was a black woman whose family was enslaved on the Caribbean island of Bermuda. She was the first black woman to have her life story published in Britain when the Anti-Slavery Movement transcribed her story to support the growing outcry against slavery in Britain. She testified against her former captors in a court-case that gripped Britain, two years before slavery was officially abolished. 

RELATED: Learn More About Mary Prince's Life Here

 Memorial to Mary Prince

On Malet Street at Senate House
There is a plaque positioned there
It says to those who never knew
Mary Prince, abolitionist, once lived here


From the beauty of Bermuda
where palms and flamingos meet,
there sat a young girl crying,
silenced when she tried to speak.
As the sun shone every morning
harsh words
were her day’s alarm,
harsh whip
cracked criticism on her.
Red welts
criss-crossed her back and palms

“Aged five,
taken from my mother,
birthday gift needed for little Bess
Aged twelve
sold from my sisters,
white lady needed wedding dress
Aged eighteen,
to a salt-pond owner
Strong girls needed to work salt mine
Exhausted, body starved and sore
Legs raw-eaten by greedy brine.
Your men prodded me like cattle
as I stood a child in the market square.
Our women held tight their children,
Scared tomorrow they might stand there.”


So when I saw the bronze plaque
On the corner of Senate House
I wondered at this woman
who confounded court and coffee-house.
The testimony of her half-healed scars
The weight-power of her words
Story lived by forgotten women
Voices freed, their truth was heard


© Antoinette Brooks 

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