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Slave Narrative and the Female Voice in Abolitionist Writing

             The 1831 slave narrative The History of Mary Prince is indeed a multi-layered text. Transcribed from Mary Prince's own words, it was written as abolitionist propaganda for England's Anti-Slavery Society. Yet, the autobiography's complexities make it difficult to examine solely as a publicity piece. The words of Prince exemplify the importance of the woman's voice in the anti-slavery campaign, while the controversy over her moral credibility challenges the principles of English society at that time. In many ways, her impact on history mirrors that of the myriad abolitionist women active during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Prince and her female contemporaries - many of whom also wrote slave narratives - used their voices to promote change and question the tenet England's civilized. .
             The West Indian's narrative was published two years before the Abolition of Slavery Act of 1833 and almost fifty years after the first anti-slavery association was established. By the time of the History's publication, a substantial number of organizations were founded that protested slavery in England. Female supporters, however, were barred access to leadership roles and restricted in their participation (Spartacus Educational Web, 11-22-02). For this reason, many women used their writing as a form of activism. The highly influential Anti-Slavery Society enabled Prince to record her story of life as a slave, and gave her the same sparse autonomy suffered by other women in the movement. Society secretary Thomas Pringle edited Prince's History to meet the restrictive criteria imposed on female slave narratives, and many believe his heavy-handedness blurs Prince's true identity and the crucial sense of authenticity (Rauwerda 397). However, authenticity was an issue debated in relation to many slave narratives, and did not stop the best of them from communicating effectively to the reader. The controversy surrounding the "truth- of Prince's narrative ultimately empowers it as a political tool and literary work.

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