Abdul-Rahman ibn Ibrahim Sori
A Short Biography
below is an excerpt of an observation taken from the exhibit on display:
was a West African nobleman and Amir (commander or governor) who was captured in the Futa Jallon region of Guinea, West Africa and sold to slave traders in the United States in 1788. Upon discovering his noble lineage, his slave master Thomas Foster, began referring to him as "Prince", a title by which Abdul Rahman would remain synonymous until his final days. After spending 40 years in slavery, he was freed in 1828 by order of President John Quincy Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay after the Sultan of Morocco requested his release.
Abdul-Rahman ibn Ibrahim Sori was a Torodbe Fulani Muslim ruler (amir) born 1762 in the city of Timbo, now part of The Republic of Guinea. His father, Almami Ibrahim Sori consolidated the Islamic confederation of Futa Jallon in 1776, with Timbo as it's capitol, where Abdul Rahman lived and studied. "He was learned in the Islamic sciences and could speak at least 4 different African languages, in addition to Arabic, and In 1781, after returning from study in the renowned city of learning-Timbuktu, Abd'r-Rahman joined the armies of his father." At age 26, he was made an Amir of one of the regiments that conquered the lands of the Bambara and in 1788 his father "made him the head a 2000 man army whose mission was to protect the coast and strengthen their economic interest in the region. It was during this military campaign that Abd'r-Rahman was captured and enslaved." He was sold to the British who brought him to Natchez, Mississippi where he labored on the cotton plantation of Thomas Foster for more than thirty-eight years before gaining his freedom. In 1794 he married Isabella, another slave of Foster’s, and eventually fathered a large family: five sons and four daughters.
By using his knowledge of growing cotton in Futa Jallon, Abdul-Rahman rose to a position of authority on the plantation and became the de facto foreman. This granted him the opportunity to grow his own vegetable garden and sell at the local market. During this time, he met an old acquaintance, Dr. John Cox, an Irish surgeon who had served on an English ship, and had become the first white man to reach Timbo after being abandoned by his ship and then falling ill. Cox stayed ashore for six months and was taken in by Abdul-Rahman's family. Cox appealed to Foster to sell him "Prince" so he could return to Africa. However, Foster would not budge, since he viewed Abdul-Rahman as indispensable to the Foster farm. Dr. Cox continued, until his death in 1829, to seek Ibrahim's freedom, to no avail. After Cox died, his son continued the cause to free Abdul-Rahman.
In 1826, Abdul-Rahman wrote a letter to his relatives in Africa. A local newspaperman, Andrew Marschalk, who was Dutch, sent the letter to United States Senator Thomas Reed from Mississippi who was then in town at the time, who forwarded it to the U.S. Consulate in Morocco. Since Abdul-Rahman wrote in Arabic, Marschalk and the U.S. government assumed that he was a Moor. After the Sultan of Morocco Abderrahmane read the letter, he asked President Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay to release Abdul-Rahman. In 1829, Thomas Foster agreed to the release of Abdul-Rahman, without payment, with the stipulation that he return to Africa and not live as a free man in America.
Before leaving the U.S., Abdul-Rahman and his wife went to various states and Washington, D.C. He solicited donations, through the press, personal appearances, the American Colonization Society and politicians, to free his family back in Mississippi. Word got back to Foster, who considered this a breach of the agreement. Abdul-Rahman's actions and freedom were also used against President John Quincy Adams by future president Andrew Jackson during the presidential election.
After ten months, Abdul-Rahman and Isabella had raised only half the funds to free their children, and instead left for Monrovia, Liberia, without their children. He lived for four months before contracting a fever and died at the age of 67. He never saw Fouta Djallon or his children again.
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