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Mary Prince

Gretchen Gerzina explores the moving story of Mary Prince. Her first-hand narrative of her life in slavery is the only account we have by a British woman.

Professor Gretchen Gerzina explores a largely unknown past - the lives of black people who settled in Britain in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

She reveals a startling paradox - although Britain was at the heart of a thriving slave trade, it was still possible for many black people to live here in freedom and prosperity. A few even made it to the very top of fashionable society.

But there were others who were brought over by slave-owners from the West Indies and who were never free, despite living for the rest of their lives in Glasgow or Bristol or London. Some took the law into their own hands and managed to free themselves. Others went further and advocated violent revolution. Free or unfree, they all saw Britain as a place of opportunity that could become a home.

The second week of programmes moves towards the 19th century and Abolition.

In this eighth episode, Professor Gerzina explores the moving story of Mary Prince. Her first-hand narrative of her life in slavery is the only account we have by a British woman. But it caused a scandal.

With Andrea Stuart and Professor Alison Donnell.

Presenter Gretchen Gerzina is the author of Black England: Life before Emancipation. She is Dean of the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts and also presents book programmes on NPR.

The music in this series is by the 18th century composer Ignatius Sancho and performed by the Afro-American Chamber Music Society Orchestra.

Readers: Kathy Tyson and Jonathan Keeble
Producer: Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Available now

15 minutes