In Her Own Words: The Voice of Mary Prince


Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies 1849, by Francois Auguste Biard 

When analyzing the Mary Prince and the impact of her book The History of Mary Prince, many historians have questioned the authenticity of her voice and identity throughout the narrative. It is known that Prince received help in transcribing and publishing her narrative. This help came mostly from white abolitionists such as her editor Thomas Pringle. [1] Because of this influence an argument has been made by academics that questions, “the circumstances governing the textual production of Mary Prince’s narrative that unquestionably altered her individual authorial voice.” [2] Criticism arise from historians who assert that Prince’s book is a conventional slave narrative and bears a striking resemblance in terms of theme and content to the anti-slave reports published by white abolitionists at the time. [3]

While it is true that Prince’s account may have lost a certain degree of authenticity in transcription/editing, her voice is not misrepresented. Prince is not a, “neutral passive recorder but rather a creative active shaper.” [4] By using her a personal account of her life, Prince is able to validate a slave’s point of view for many white people.

Taking into account both interpretations and their arguments, which can be more validated it terms of accurately representing Mary Prince’s voice? Is the fact that Price’s narrative was influenced by white abolitionists detrimental to its influence on society? Or just its “authenticity”?



  1. Prince, Mary, and Thomas Pringle. The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave. London: F. Westley and A.H. Davis, 1831. Print.
  2. Paquet, Sandra Pouchet. “The Heartbeat of a West Indian Slave: The History of Mary Prince.” AfricanAmerican Review 26.1 (1992): 131. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web.
  3. The Heartbeat of a West Indian Slave, p. 131
  4. Olney, James. “”I Was Born”: Slave Narratives, Their Status as Autobiography and asLiterature.” Callaloo No. 20 (1984): 46-73. JSTOR. Web. 14 Jan. 2017.

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