Retracing their Roots: Descendants of prince enslaved in Mississippi return him to his African home

Published 11:15 am Monday, January 23, 2023

Two descendants of an enslaved African prince recently undertook the journey to retrace his roots and reestablish ties between Mississippi and West Africa.

Prince Abdourahmane Ibn Sori was an African prince from the country of Futah Djallon, which is now Guinea in West Africa.

He was captured in 1788 in West Africa and enslaved in the United States for 40 years in the southern river town of Natchez at Foster’s Fields plantation.

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The infamous prince would eventually obtain his freedom from slavery in 1829, with he and his wife, Isabella sailed from America and arrived on the shores of Africa.

His journey abruptly ended just four months after arriving in Monrovia, Libera, when he contracted yellow fever and died and his dream to return to his people and home city, the village of Timbo in the country of Futah Djallon (Guinea) was never realized.

On Dec. 20, 2022, descendants Beverly Adams and Princess Karen Chatman embarked on a monumental journey of symbolically returning Prince Abdourahmane to his home. They traveled the long journey from the United States across the Atlantic, arriving in Conakry, Guinea.

There they were greeted with a wealth of goodwill and support by the Guinean government and Eladhj Mody Oury Barry, the elder and businessman representing the Barry-Sori family.

“A symposium was held on December 21 and 22, 2022, at Gamal Abdel Nasser University in honor of Prince Abdourahmane and his descendants … it was entitled, ‘Symposium Hommage Au Prince,’” Adams said.

Attendees of the Symposium consisted of historians, university students and staff, representatives of the Barry-Sori family, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mohamed Lamine Kaloga, Mamadou Aliou Barry and Moustapha Diallo, the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia, Minister Counselor, M. Catherine Doe, The United States Embassy, First Counselor Anne Dudte, delegates from Liberia, including journalist, Ousmane Jalloh, who captured every moment, accompanied by Imam Tejanie Golafalley, Sister Denise and others from Monrovia, Liberia.

“The royal treatment we received, consummated the long-awaited journey of Prince Abdourahmane’s return home,” Adams said. “We are incredibly grateful to the Minister of Cultural and Tourism for providing security and transportation for our pilgrimage through the villages of Mamou, Sokotoro, and finally, the village of Timbo. On our journey, the elders embraced us; we were honored by receiving the traditional blessings, acknowledgements, and given names that signified our acceptance into the Sori-Barry family.”

Adams received the name Fatoumata Pint Barry; Fatoumata means “a woman who abstains.” Chatman received the name of Princess Khadija Barry; Khadija means “mother of believers.”

“We were astonished to observe the remains of the two villages that King Sori established:  the village of Sokotoro, and the village of Timbo, including the palace of King Sori and the mausoleum of King Sori’s cousin, Karamokha Alfa in Timbo. It was an amazingly significant and historic occasion for the Sori Barry descendants around the world,” Adams said.

This pilgrimage to Timbo was a stamp of their birthrights, one of royalty, a rich heritage, and of a robust legacy.

“The journey across the once labeled Trans-Atlantic slave route, is now a route marking freedom for Prince Adourahmane and freedom for all,” Adams said. “To further consummate the life and legacy of Prince Abdourahmane, delegates of King Sori-Barry family will continue to strengthen relations in Guinea and Mississippi.”

In May, the descendants of Prince Abdourahmane ibn Sori of the United States will welcome dignitaries and elders from Guinea to Natchez.

Accompanied by the United States-born descendants of Prince Abdourahmane, the dignitaries and elders of Guinea will visit the very place where Prince Abdourahmane lived for 40 years with his wife Isabella and their nine children and grandchildren. The Elder, Eladhj Mody Oury Barry of Timbo will lead the delegates as they venture into Natchez.

This will be a momentous occasion—one that will be forged into the history books and in the minds of those young and old.

“The story of Prince Adourahmane ibn Sori will come to a full circle to honor him and the family that descended from him,” Adams said. “As the Guinean delegates arrive, they will be ‘Coming to America’ signifying a tangible and true story of an African Prince.”