‘Incidents in the Life of an Anglican Slave, Written by Herself’ (2023) is a new play inspired by a rare 1723 letter from an anonymous enslaved Virginian to the "Lord arch Bishop of London" (the document is housed at Lambeth Palace Library). Both fictional slave narrative and ghost story, 'Incidents' (2023) brings into the light, 300 years after a daring epistolary act (if caught, he/she could "swing upon the gallass tree", writes the anonymous Virginian) the life of an enslaved mulatto whose journey (in the play) spans key imperial sites: Virginia, Barbados and London. 'Incidents' (2023) offers a window, via story, into the history of both enslavement and resistance across the global landscape that was the British Transatlantic Slave Empire in the long eighteenth century. Drawing on in-depth archival research and historical imagination, the play explores, among other themes: slave literacy, resistance and rebellion and, of course, religion. 'Incidents' (2023) is also a tribute, by way of its attempt to restore personhood to, not only the anonymous author of one of the earliest known pleas for freedom in the British Empire, but the enslaved mulatto's African mother, who stands in for a collective: the silent millions whose humanity was confiscated during the transatlantic slavery era but who left no trace in the archives. Staged readings of 'Incidents' (2023) will begin in February 2023 at London locations including Lambeth Palace Library on 15 March 2023 (click here for tickets)
More 'Incidents' coming soon....
1723 letter from an anonymous enslaved Virginian to the Lord arch Bishop of London (page 1 of 3 shown here. Image courtesy Lambeth Palace Library). The anonymous author describes 'a Sort of people that is Calld mollaters' and asks the 'Lord arch Bishop' (with the help of King George and the rest of the rulers) to 'Release us out of this Cruell Bondegg'.
Interestingly, continues the anonymous autho
1723 letter from an anonymous enslaved Virginian. (page 2 of 3 shown here. Image courtesy Lambeth Palace Library):
'and to be plain they doo Look no more upon us then if wee ware dogs which I hope when these Strange Lines comes to your Lord Ships hands will be Looked in to'
1723 letter from an anonymous enslaved Virginian. (page 3 of 3 shown here. Image courtesy Lambeth Palace Library):
'my Riting is vary bad I hope your honour will take the will for the deede'
The letter ends with:
'wee dare not Subscribe any mans name to this for fear of our masters for if they knew that wee have Sent home to your honour wee Should go near to Swing upon the gallass tree'
'Flying Fish and Ships' (original in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University): The journey (in the play) of our character, whose 'name is Secrett' and who is her own brother's slave, takes her from Virginia to Barbados, into the womb of the British Atlantic Slave Empire