“Prince Among Slaves” by Terry Alford


Terry Alford is a professor of history at Northern Virginia community college. He earned a doctoral degree in history at Mississippi state university and did post-doctoral studies at the University of California at Davis. He is a founding board member of the Abraham Lincoln institute and serves on the board of advisors for the Lincoln Herald.

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In the analysis Alford brings forth the fact that remarkable Africans of the likes of Rahman could successively endure the humiliation and harsh experience of slavery without ever losing their dignity or hope for freedom. During the slavery era, Africans had many tough experiences such as, every African had a family left behind, a job, a past, a world in which he or she belonged, plight of slaves completely disconnected from their native cultures.

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In his writing which was recommendable, Terry Alford tells of a story of Abd al Rahman Ibrahim a Muslim slave who at the age of 26 years was captured during a military campaign against non-Muslims in Guinea in 1788 sold to British slave traders and taken to America by the slave ship. The story tells more of Ibrahima’s true life as an African-Muslim turned American slave in the context of a drama cycle which is characterized by historic and scholastic commentary all through. After his transport to America, he was taken to Thomas Foster’s tobacco plantation in Natchet, Mississippi where he was to spend 40 yeas of enslavement. Ibrahima besides being a slave, he was a well educated, aristocratic man and this enabled him to be made an overseer of the large cotton and tobacco plantation of his master. (p. 145) During this time at the plantation he was recognized by an Irish ship’s surgeon in 1807 as the son of an African king who had saved his life a couple of years earlier. His long life as a slave He always strived for liberation where at least one moment he could attain freedom and go back to Africa his native land.

This unlikely story of liberation started when he had a chance to meet Dr. John Cox who Ibrahimas father had helped some times back in Africa. Cox in his efforts to free him from slavery had offered to buy Ibrahima for any price but in vain because Foster refused to sell him. After years of petitioning by Dr. Cox and others which lasted for two decades Ibrahima finally gained freedom in 1828.


This liberation involved Cox’s son William who enlisted newspaper editor Andrew Marshack to Ibrahimas cause and his articles caught the attention of the then secretary of state Henry Clay whose intercession convinced president John Quincy Adams to free Rahman. After being freed from slavery he immediately endured on a mission to free his wife Isabela and children who were still enslaved in Foster’s cotton plantation by campaigning among abolitionist groups and politicians for financial help necessary to buy his family’s freedom. In his efforts he could only raise enough money for two children who together with their families joined Isabela in Liberia,66 years old Rahman returned to Africa but unfortunately died before reaching his kingdom in Futa Jallon.

This story is encouraging and challenging to many readers especially Africans who get to learn more about the issues that affected slaves in the past. T he example of Rahman who was a kings son is a perfect one to learn on how even the powerful Africans were subject to the suffering of slavery but with important lesson on how he courageously fought until he attained freedom.

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