Prince Among Slaves debuts tonight on PBS

This is a great start to Black History Month. This film is narrated by Mos Def and Bill Duke served as the Director of Reenactments.

1788. The slave ship Africa set sail from the Gambia River, its hold laden with a profitable but highly perishable cargo—hundreds of men, women and children bound in chains–headed for American shores. Eight months later, a handful of survivors found themselves for sale in Natchez, Mississippi. On the slave auction block, one of them, a 26-year-old male named Abdul Rahman Ibrahima made an astonishing claim to Thomas Foster, the plantation owner who purchased him at auction: As an African prince, highly educated and heir to a kingdom, this bedraggled African’s father would gladly pay gold for his return. Foster dismissed the claim as a tissue of lies.

Abdul Rahman, trilingual, a successful military general and true heir to a West African nation the size of Great Britain, did not return to Africa for 40 years. In that time he toiled on Foster’s plantation to make his owner rich. 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 such powerful men as President John Quincy Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay.

Later in life, he and Isabella traveled widely throughout the northern states, where Abdul Rahman addressed huge audiences of fascinated whites, early Abolitionists including Francis Scott Key and Thomas Gallaudet, and sympathetic Free Blacks in an attempt to raise enough money to buy his children out of slavery. A hero snared in a tragedy for four decades, he 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.

Abdul Rahman’s life story is told in full historical detail in the Oxford University Press book, Prince Among Slaves by Terry Alford, a property under contract to Unity Productions Foundation.

The film PRINCE AMONG SLAVES will be a vivid, dramatic feature film of an extraordinary man in extraordinary times, interweaving universal themes of bondage and deliverance, pride and forbearance, guile and providence with the wild and unruly early years of America’s Kingdom of Cotton.

The characters in this true story are larger than life: a courageous, wily, and educated Prince snatched from his throne; am expansive Faulknerian plantation family riven by alcohol and madness; a conflicted Northern journalist partial to a slave’s fate yet beholden to the interests of slaveholders; the Great Conciliator Henry Clay, U.S. Secretary of State; Andrew Jackson, one-time slaver and Presidential candidate; and his opponent John Quincy Adams, American President.

The Setting is Natchez, Mississippi, a well-preserved antebellum town, where more millionaires lived in 1820 than in New York, where Cotton was King, and where, today, over 200 plantation homes are on the National registry.

Produced by Unity Productions Foundation, the narrator is renowned hip-hop artist and actor Mos Def (The Italian Job, 16 Blocks). The film is directed by Andrea Kalin (Partners of the Heart, The Pact) with Bill Duke as the Director of Reenactments (A Raisin in the Sun, A Rage in Harlem). Supported with grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Black Programming Consortium, this 60 minute film is intended for broadcast on PBS in 2008.

2 Comments

Filed under africa, crime, culture, drama, history, injustice, slavery, television

2 responses to “Prince Among Slaves debuts tonight on PBS

  1. ktruth

    This aired last night on a PBS digital channel (who knew there was such a thing…). It will be aired on the regular PBS this Thiursday (2/7/08) at 10PM.

  2. alicia

    the stuff worth wikipedia-ing!! great Post!

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