Four Women Tee

Sally &

Fleeper &

Hetty &

Mary.

This shirt celebrates four Black women who were enslaved in Bermuda. Their stories were written and passed down and for that, we are thankful.  We say their names, honour their journeys, celebrate their acts of resistance, and channel their spirit.

Ase.

The Four Women

Sarah ‘Sally’ Bassett

The slave who became a famous legend in Bermudian history because of the poison plot was Sarah (Sally) Bassett… Just before Christmas, on December 18, 1729, she visited her granddaughter Beck, who was the slave of Sarah and Thomas Forster of Somerset. She gave Beck two rags, which contained doses of poison, rats bane and manchineel root… Beck was instructed in the use of the poisons. The poisons did their work… They were described as “sick and lie in a very languishing and dangerous condition.” Sarah Bassett was arrested and appeared before the assize court on June 2, 1730.

Her sentence, “to be burned with fire until your body be dead.”

The exact date of Sarah Bassett’s being burned at the stake is unknown. A stake was erected at the foot of Crow Lane, located at the Eastern end of Hamilton Harbour. Legend has it that when her ashes were examined, there appeared a tiny purple iris in full bloom. Today, this indigenous flower is known as the Bermudiana. – Excerpt from Chained on the Rock by Cyril Packwood

Fleeper

Phillipa, who called herself ‘Fleeper’, was owned by Bridger Goodrich of St. George’s. (Bridger Goodrich lived in St. George’s, at what is now called Bridge House, just behind Town Hall.) In 1783, she accompanied the Goodrich family on a voyage from Bermuda. Fleeper later returned with a note signed by Bridger Goodrich, which read: “The bearer has permission to proceed to Bermuda in the sloop Lady Hammond, passage free, and there to remain her own mistress and at her own disposal as no person whatever has any claim upon her. In case of my coming to Bermuda, or of Mrs. Goodrich, she will be called upon to serve and in no other condition.  On his death bed, he told Fleeper “if she behaved herself well that her mistress would give her time when she went to England.”

After his death, Fleeper ran away, carrying with her a crumpled piece of note paper. It was good that she did, because Mrs. Goodrich left instructions that all of her slaves were to be sold at public auction.  Phillipa declared to them that her master had freed her before he died, and produced the crumpled note paper to prove it. The executors refused to honour the note. The slaves were sold at auction, but Phillipa was not among them. She went into hiding. In spite of an advertisement in the paper to the effect that anyone sheltering or harbouring her would be prosecuted, Phillipa’s whereabouts remained a secret. A benefactor put her case before the High Court of Chancery in London.  The verdict read:”We find the negro woman, Phillipa, to be free.” A crumpled piece of note paper resulted in freedom for Fleeper! – Excerpt from Chained on the Rock by Cyril Packwood

Hetty

The person I took the most notice of was a French Black called Hetty, whom my master took in privateering from another vessel, and made his slave. She was the most active woman I ever saw, and she was tasked with the utmost. I looked to look at her watch all her doings, for her’s was the only friendly face I had as yet seen, and I felt glad she was there. She gave me my supper of potatoes and milk, and a blanket to sleep upon, which she spread for me in the passage.

Poor Hetty my fellow slave, was very kind to me, and I used to call her my Aunt; but she lead a most miserable life, and her death was hastened by the dreadful chastisement she received from my master during her pregnancy.  One of the cows got loose. My master flew into a terrible passion, and ordered the poor creature to be stripped quite naked, notwithstanding her pregnancy, and to be tied up to a tree in the yard. Her shrieks were terrible. The consequence was that poor Hetty was brought to bed before her time, and was delivered after severe labour of a dead child. Ere long her body and limbs swelled to a great size; and she lay on a mat in the kitchen, till the water burst out of her body and she died. I cried very much for her death. The manner of it filled me with horror. I could not bear to think about it; yet it was always present in my mind for many a day. – Excerpt from The History of Mary Prince

Mary Prince

The ‘History of Mary Prince’ (1831) was the first narrative of a Black woman to be published in Britain. It describes Prince’s sufferings as a slave in Bermuda, Turks Island and Antigua, and her eventual arrival in London with her brutal owner Mr. Wood in 1828. Prince escaped from him and sought assistance from the Anti-Slavery Society, where she dictated her remarkable story. A moving and graphic document, The History of Mary Prince drew attention to the continuation of slavery in the Caribbean, despite an 1807 Act of Parliament officially ending the slave trade. It inspired two libel actions and ran into three editions in the year of its publication. This powerful cry for emancipation remains an extraordinary testament to Prince’s ill-treatment, suffering and survival.

“She asked me

who had put freedom

into my head.

“To be free

is very sweet,”

I said.”

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