The History of Mary Prince is a landmark text. Mary Prince’s narrative of her experiences as a slave was the first autobiographical source written by a woman of color to be published in the British Isles. Dictated to Susanna Strickland and edited by poet and abolitionist Thomas Pringle, the book details Prince’s journey from the brutalities of servitude in the West Indies to a kind of de facto (though still precarious) freedom in England.
Although the British had prohibited the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, slavery itself was still legal in the Empire at the time of publication. Almost immediately, Mary Prince’s book caused an uproar. By 1834, a few short years after publication, Parliament formally abolished slavery.
Please read this short text in its entirety. Then develop a solid, well-argued thesis and defend it in a three-page essay with discussion and analysis of the evidence from the primary source itself.
The possibilities are endless, but you may wish to consider something along one of the following trajectories: (1) constructions of race, gender, sexuality, class or ethnicity as presented in the text; (2) rhetorical uses of language; (3) who is Mary Prince?; (4) power and resistance; (5) authorial dynamics between Mary Prince, her transcriber Susanna Strickland and her editor, Thomas Pringle; and (6) political, social, religious and/or cultural relationships between Britain and its colonies. Do not feel limited by these; there are many other options.
Please note: This short book makes for some very difficult reading. There are several passages with graphic descriptions of physical and sexual violence.
1. A strong thesis makes a strong paper. Make sure you take a clear position on whatever topic you are discussing.
2. Give your paper a compelling title. A formal cover page is nice, but not necessary.
3. Organize evidence logically. Use transition sentences to lead from one idea to the next. Avoid large logical leaps.
4. Never provide a quotation without an explanation. Explain to the reader precisely how you understand what the passage is saying, and how it supports your argument.
5. Begin the paper by writing as simply as you can. Avoid flowery language and adverbs and limit the weak verbs and prepositions you use.
6. Sources: As with Essay 1, rely upon the primary source. You should not need to go beyond this source, but if you do, make sure that you cite all materials all properly.
Also, please be sure to follow the proper format (Chicago Style) in your submissions and see your syllabus for more information on details of format.
2. Include footnotes for any information you take from any of your sources and include a bibliography.
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