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Humanities Seminar

Friday, November 6, 2020
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Online Event
Mammy, Hetty, Sarah, and an Old Healer Woman: Foremothers in The History of Mary Prince
Dana Murphy, Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,

Widely regarded as the earliest known Black enslaved woman's narrative at the time of this writing, The History of Mary Prince (1831) begins with the dissolution of Prince's family as she and her siblings are sold to finance their enslaver's wedding. The overt separation of Prince's family in the name of the performance of white marriage demonstrates the extravagant efforts to render "Black family" oxymoronic. In fact, Prince's mother struggles to frame the separation within the language of her motherhood. This talk will argue that Prince's separation from her mother leads Prince to immortalize her and several foremothers, elder Black women outside of immediate family structures, whose stories provided Prince with a language for freedom. As Prince's narrative proceeds, their stories become her inheritance, the evidence by which she roots her History, demands her freedom, and argues for abolition worldwide.

For more information, or if you are interested in attending this online seminar, please contact Cecilia Lu by email at