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Luminaries

As if written in the stars themselves, Abdul Rahman's path crossed that of numerous luminaries of nineteenth-century North America, as the prince and former slave sought the aid of these leaders of the young country that held, but had not yet fulfilled, the promise of freedom for all. Forty years of enslavement and hard labor from sunup to sundown on a steamy Mississippi plantation could not dim the noble spirit of African prince Abdul Rahman, who never wavered in his belief that freedom, not bondage, was his rightful destiny.

In 1828, with the help of friends in Natchez and the intervention of the U.S. government, plantation owner Thomas Foster was persuaded to release the prince from slavery, and Abdul Rahman finally got his freedom. It was not an unconditional release: Foster's one requirement -- that the prince return immediately to his African home -- was one condition Abdul Rahman could not keep. Bravely defying the dictate of his former owner, the prince instead embarked on a tour of the northern states, telling his story before huge audiences and seeking support in his efforts to reclaim his family. In his heart he carried the image of his children, still bound in bitter slavery in Natchez; in his pocket, he carried his subscription book, soliciting money to buy their freedom.

Abdul Rahman's tour of the North made him the most famous African in America and a flashpoint of controversy in the increasingly ugly 1828 presidential campaign. Throughout the tour, Abdul Rahman encountered millionaires, governors, congressmen, ministers, abolitionists, even a president -- the leading men of the day. In all these meetings, Abdul Rahman treated the men as peers and equals, acting always with the dignity of a prince. In turn, his own nobility of spirit was recognized by many of those he met.

Abdul Rahman

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