Thursday, November 22, 2012

Prince Among Slaves

Prince Among Slaves

Abdul Rahman, an African prince who was sold into slavery, spent four decades in servitude before an amazing coincidence took him to the White House to meet President John Quincy Adams, where he was granted his freedom. Mos Def narrates this PBS documentary that includes reenactments of scenes from Rahman's life and interviews with historians who discuss the conditions faced by slaves in early America.

1788 Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Curriculum Resources:

Excellent Panel Discussion on Film/Education
Content, Topic

On January 27, 2012, the Turkish Cultural Center brought together three esteemed panelists to discuss the importance of the movie Prince Among Slaves in order to analyze the self-understanding for Black/African American youth. This particular movie focuses on the life of a victim of the slave trade, Prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori. The issue of self- preservation and sense of self is discussed in the panel by Dr. Michael Gomez, Mr. Eric Tait and Mr. Yusuf Ramadan.
This particular issue, and background information on Prince Rahman, was first alluded to by Dr. Gomez, who provided the necessary context for the film before the film's viewing. We learn that Prince Rahman was originally a native of Guinea who was forcibly brought over to America despite his royal background. We also learn from Dr. Gomez that from the 15th to the 19th centuries, of all the Africans brought over to America there were tens of thousands of Muslims, which is important in the quest for finding one's own identity in the African American community.
Further on in the discussion, a documentarian by trade, Mr. Eric Tait gives us an overview of the actual impact of slavery on the enslaved and enslavement's effects on self- identity and sense of self. According to Mr. Tait, Prince Among Slaves, "gives a graphic example of the strata of the people enslaved." These were individuals that tried to maintain their identity, despite the enormity of the negative circumstances they found themselves in in a foreign land under enslavement. Prince Rahman is an example of an individual who refuses to give up his sense of self and who has the strength of will not to succumb to bondage. In discussing Prince Rahman's life, Mr. Tait asks "are we as individuals, despite the types of negative circumstance able to rise out of those circumstances?" The question is indeed a very good one, though most of us have not experienced such a circumstance, the answer is a loud "Yes" as can be seen from Prince Rahman's life.
The next panelist was Imam Yusuf Ramadan. Mr. Ramadan also discussed the issue of identity in the film, and made a particular point about Prince Rahman's identity as being that of a Muslim's. As the Africans enslaved were done so irrespective of status and religion, Mr. Ramadan's discussion of Prince Rahman's religious background is an important issue. In Mr. Ramadan's view, the film illustrates that "regardless of the perception from the outside, he refused to give up his sense of self-worth as a human being first. " Mr. Ramadan also made the comparison of the slave owners' practices of enslaving, with contemporary issues, in which responsibility for one's fellow man is ignored.

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