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Sun, 09.15.1799

Nancy Prince, Abolitionist, and Writer born

*Nancy Prince was born on this date in 1799.  She was a Black abolitionist and writer.  

Nancy Gardner Prince was born free in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  Her father, Thomas Gardner, was a wailer.  Little is known about Prince's family life. Her father, a seaman, died when she was an infant, leaving her in the care of her mother, who subsequently married several times, so Nancy had six younger siblings. They sold berries to support the family, and she eventually went on to work as a servant for white families.  

In 1824 she married Nero Prince, one of the founders of the Prince Hall Freemasons in Boston. They traveled to Russia, where she opened a boarding home and made infant clothing while her husband was a footman to the czar in St. Petersburg.  She learned to speak French and Russian.   After her husband died, finding herself suddenly widowed as her mother before her, Mrs. Prince returned to Boston, engaged with the anti-slavery society, and undertook two missions to the recently freed black people of Jamaica, supported in part by Nantucket-born Lucretia Coffin Mott

Her educational project for Jamaican women failed, and on her voyage back home, her vessel was blown off-course by a hurricane.  Prince found herself aboard a leaking Hulk towed into the port of New Orleans.  As a black woman, she could not safely go ashore and spent days watching enslaved men, women, and children in chains being loaded onto other vessels for transport to the plantations of Texas. Asked from the shore to whom she belonged, she asserted her status as a free-born child of God and invoked her father's name, Thomas Gardner. Miraculously, his name was known in New Orleans, and her status as free, supported by her Russian travel documents, got her off the wrecked ship and on her way to New York, arriving in August 1843. 

When they returned to Boston, she started her seamstress business and lectured about her travels to Russia and Jamaica.   She wrote about her travels in Russia and Jamaica.  Her published autobiography includes an account of how her marriage led her to the Russian Courts of Alexander I and Nicholas I.  "The author vividly describes local Russian customs, as well as her experiences of the Saint Petersburg flood of 1824 and the Decembrist Revolt."  The date of her death is uncertain. Nancy Gardner Prince died in c. 1856. 

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