American Stories

Prince Among Slaves: the True Story of an African Prince Sold into Slavery in the American South
by Terry Alford

This book tells the little-known story of Abd al-Rahman Ibrahima, a Fulbe Muslim of elite ancestry who was captured in an ambush, sold to English slavers, and enslaved in the United States in 1788. After forty years in America, most of them spent in slavery, Abd al-Rahman won his freedom and was able to return to Africa in 1828, thanks in large part to the efforts of Secretary of State Henry Clay and other concerned individuals.  This thirtieth-anniversary edition of Prince Among Slaves includes material discovered since the original publication of the book in 1977. Gathered from historical documents on three continents, Abd al-Rahman’s remarkable story offers glimpses of a West African society in the era of the transatlantic slave trade, an American frontier plantation at the beginning of the cotton boom, and the early American republic. It also shows how Abd al-Rahman built a dignified life despite slavery, and even negotiated his family’s release from bondage.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2007


Terry Alford is a professor of history at Northern Virginia Community College, where he teaches survey courses in U.S. history. He helped found the college’s honors program and teaches an honors course in 19th-century American history each semester. Alford holds a doctorate in history from Mississippi State University and has studied family history at the University of California–Davis. In 2007, Prince Among Slaves was made into a documentary film with financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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