“A Prince Among Slaves” was one of the more ambitious efforts to sell African-Americans on Islam. Aired nationwide on PBS and still making a tour of the United States, the documentary claims to tell the story of an African Muslim prince who was sold into slavery in the South.
The story of Prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori is used as a springboard to incorporate Islam into American history, misrepresent it as an anti-slavery creed and convince African-Americans that their cultural background is Muslim. The website set up for “A Prince Among Slaves” even claims that the Blues originated from Koran readings.
But there’s just one problem with trying to present Prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori as a victim of slavery and a role model for African-Americans. The Prince was actually a vicious racist who was a mass murderer of Africans and a brutal plantation overseer.
Prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori despised Africans and considered himself a Moor. So much so that he would actually have been more at home in the Klan, than in some of the Black churches and cultural centers where “A Prince Among Slaves” has been screened.
A contemporary fundraising letter on his behalf read, “But Prince states explicitly, and with an air of pride, that not a drop of Negro blood runs in his veins. He places the Negro on a scale of being infinitely below the Moor.”
The letter then goes on to emphasize that his brother was considered racially inferior because of an African mother, and that if Prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori were to return home he would have a superior right to the throne than his impure sibling.
In Rahman’s own account, he describes going to war against an African tribe and razing their towns. After the natives fought back, Rahman boasts that he proclaimed, “I will not run for an African.” This assertion of racial superiority proved to be a poor choice. The Africans caught Rahman, tied him up and sold him to some slave traders.
Far from being a hapless African sold into slavery, Rahman was actually a Muslim Moor who despised Africans. It is hard to think of a worse role model to present to African-Americans than a mass murderer of black people, whose expedition against them led to him being sold into slavery by the very Africans he despised.
“Prince of Slaves,” the Terry Alford book on which the movie is loosely based, documents Rahman’s racism. And as overseer his abuse of African slaves on the plantation. Another letter mentions his blood-thirsty disposition and writes that:
“M. Foster actually made him manager of the plantation, had continually to keep an eye upon him and to curb his sanguinary temper to prevent him from exercising cruelty on his fellow servants…”
Alford is skeptical, because such an image of Prince Rahman would destroy the entire purpose of his book. Yet it is wholly consistent with Prince Abdul Rahman’s statements and attitudes. With his entire history of slaughtering Africans and viewing them as an inferior race.
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