Thursday, January 31, 2008

Prince Among Slaves

PBS-TV Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Mos Def Narrates True Tale of Abduction and Enslavement

In 1788, 26 year-old Abdul-Rahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori (Marcus Mitchell) was in Mali pursuing higher education at Timbuktu when he was seized and sold to slave traders. The fact that he was a Fulbe Prince from the land of Futa Jallon meant nothing to his captors who immediately shipped him across the ocean to America where he ended up picking cotton on a plantation in Mississippi owned by Thomas Foster.
Abdul-Rahman’s ensuing adjustment to the change of circumstances, from a life of power and privilege to one of exploitation and utter subjugation is the subject of Prince Among Slaves, a costume drama narrated by rapper Mos Def. As the bio-pic evolves, we learn that, despite suffering unspeakable indignities, this member of a Muslim royal family managed to marry and father nine children.
He never totally capitulated to his plight mentally, sharing his tragic story with any empathetic soul willing to listen. Eventually, word reached the ears of President John Quincy Adams, and Abdul-Rahman was released after 40 years of servitude. But rather than return to Africa alone, he first moved to the North where earned enough money to purchase the freedom of his family.
Prince Among Slaves is recommended because it resurrects the tale of survival of a remarkable hero who overcame incredible odds. Though shedding light on a little know chapter of African-American history, the production suffers from unconvincing acting efforts, and the subtle suggestion that blacks who weren’t kings or queens might have somehow deserved their lot.

Good (2 stars)
Running time: 57 minutes
Studio: PBS American Experience/Paramount Home Video

Prince Among Slaves is set to premiere on PBS at 10 PM (EST) on February 4th (check local listings)

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