In 1788 the slave ship Africa, set sail from West Africa and headed for America with its berth laden with a profitable but highly perishable cargo-hundreds of men, women and children bound ...
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In 1788 the slave ship Africa, set sail from West Africa and headed for America with its berth laden with a profitable but highly perishable cargo-hundreds of men, women and children bound in chains. Six months later the survivors were sold in Natchez, Mississippi. One of them, a 26-year-old man named Abdul-Rahman made a remarkable claim to the farmer who purchased him at the auction that he was an African prince and that his father would pay gold for his ransom. The offer was refused and Abdul-Rahman did not return to Africa for another 40 years. During his enslavement he toiled on the Foster plantation, married, and fathered nine children. His story also eventually made him the most famous African in America, attracting the support of powerful men such as President John Quincy Adams. After forty years of slavery, Abdul-Rahman finally reclaimed his freedom, but he defied the order to return immediately to Africa, and instead traveled throughout the northern states, speaking to huge ...Written by
The life of Abdul Rahman is fascinating and provides for an engaging story that this documentary follows while also giving useful education about slavery, American history, and African history.
Abdul Rahman was a Prince in the Kingdom of Timbo in modern day West Africa, who was educated in Timbuktu and eventually became a leader of one of his father's armies. In 1788 he was ambushed by a rival African army and sold into slavery in the new world. There he became a slave in Mississippi for decades until an incredible series of events led the entire country learning of his plight and many people coming to his aid. I will not go into too much detail on his life story because it's already listed in the "Plot Summary" section, and because it would ruin the excitement! What you need to know about the movie, though, is that is very watchable, especially for a documentary about a subject as harsh as slavery. I found myself enthralled by Rahman's life story, and impressed by the quality of production. It has a large cast of extras and really takes the time to recreate the era. The scholars brought in were very knowledgeable and not boring (which can happen) and the facts presented really illuminated my understanding of this period in American history. One of the things that I really took away from it was actually the relationship between Islam and the United States at the beginning of American history. Finding out that Morocco was actually the first country to recognize the US as a an independent country, or that one third of all slaves brought to the new world were Muslims (like Rahman) really opened my eyes to the fact that we've been interacting with the Muslim world since our inception, rather than it being some new phenomenon.
The history of Slavery in early America is also presented in a very real way, showing both slaves and slave owners as real people embedded in the society and times that they lived. While it does put perspective on slavery, it also shows just how bad it was in its dehumanizing effect on the people taken as slaves. It goes into great detail on the slave ships, the slave markets, and the plantation, giving a firm grounding to the story of one man being able to rise above his plight in an alien world he's sold into.
My complaints are minor. One character has a ridiculous Irish accent and they seem to show Rahman's age only by changing his wigs, but nothing that really took away from the overall experience.
As a side note, Mos Def has a really nice narrating voice. I hope he does more of it in the future.
I actually found out about this film because it's offered by a group called 20,000 Dialogues which gives out free dvds that deal with Muslims in America to anyone willing to host a dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims, so you can get this movie for free as long as you sign up for a dialogue. Not too shabby.
If you're interested in American history, the history of slavery, the history of Islam in America, or African history, this is must see film. As Mos Def says in the special features, "If this story is known, why isn't it known more?" It's a story that must be told and I'm glad this film took the time to tell it.
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