African descendants of Prince Ibrahima returning to Natchez

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Portrait of Prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahima ibn Sori by Henry Inman and engraved by Thomas Illman. (Available through U.S. Library of Congress.

JANS – Twenty West African elders, all descendants of Prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahima ibn Sori, are planning a return visit to Natchez in May, according to Princess Karen Chatman, who is coordinating the event.

The elders are from Timbo, Guinea, in West Africa. They are of the Official Royal House of Sori, said Chatman. They will be in Natchez from Wednesday, May 8, to Saturday, May 11.

Their ancestor, Abdul Rahman (1762-1829), was an African prince from Timbo, who was captured in 1788 at the age of 26 and shipped to the United States where he was sold in Mississippi as a slave. He spent 40 years toiling on the plantation of Thomas Foster before he gained his freedom in 1848.

Abdul Rahman returned to Africa in 1829, but he died of yellow fever in Monrovia, Liberia, before he reached his home in Futa Jallon (now Guinea). He was 67.

Abdul Rahman’s story is told in Terry Alford’s book, “Prince among Slaves: The True Story of an African Prince Sold into Slavery in the American South” (Oxford University Press). It is also dramatized in the film, “Prince Among Slaves” (Unity Productions Foundation), which is based on Alford’s book.

The Timbo elders visited Natchez for the first time in May 2023. During their stay, they met with their local relatives, also descendants of the prince, according to Chatman. On their next visit, they plan to meet with local leaders, historians, and dignitaries for the purpose of building and strengthening relationships, Chatman said.

“Now we’re looking for sustainable interaction,” she said, noting they hope to meet with changemakers, representatives from the Natchez Historical Society, Historic Natchez Foundation, African American Museum of History and Culture, and Visit Natchez, among other groups.

“We want to experience the places that Prince Sori visited and review records related to his history and the people who knew him,” she said.

The theme for the next visit is “Walking in the Footsteps of a Prince.”

The elders of Timbo will hold a symposium on Thursday, May 9, at the Natchez Convention Center. In addition to leading discussions about the life history of Abdul Rahman, Chatman said she will debut the film “From PRINCE TO SLAVE” that was a collaboration between the elders of Timbo and the U.S. Embassy in Guinea. Its purpose is to share historical information about the prince’s departure from Guinea and the latest research on his life, Chatman said.

Additionally, Chatman said, the elders of Timbo are hoping to work alongside the community and the mayor’s office to have a road or street in Natchez “on the path to the Thomas Foster property” named in Abdul Rahman’s honor. It was on Foster’s land where the prince spent 40 years enslaved.

Chatman said her organization, The Natchez to Timbo Connection, has opened a local office in Natchez to facilitate ongoing efforts in the areas of research, culture, education, and cultivation of relationships. The office is managed by Darrel White, the mayor-appointed volunteer liaison, and Kerri Lewis, the organization’s director of history and culture.

The elders of  Timbo envision having university students from Timbo coming to Natchez and working with Alcorn State University and other universities within the United States. “We’re interested in collaborations that allow for shared experiences and the introduction of diverse cultures,” Chatman said.

Chatman, a native of Natchez, is a direct descendant of Abdul Rahman and his wife, Isabella. She said her great-great-grandmother was the couple’s daughter. In recent years, her work on her ancestor has been supported by Mayor Dan Gibson and others in Natchez.

“Mayor Gibson is a catalyst for the sharing of culture,” she said. “He’s an advocate for inclusion. He’s also a leader, an innovative thinker, and a champion when it comes to democracy. He’s shown that every single time I’ve spoken with him.”

Gibson will join the delegation when they travel to Hartford, Conn., and Washington, D.C.

“I am honored to represent Natchez in these activities that highlight this significant chapter in American History,” Gibson said. “The story of Prince Rahman is like no other. His is a noble tale of tragedy intertwined with both the best and worst of humanity. I am so grateful to see his legacy being given the recognition so very much deserved.”


May 8: Welcome Lunch Meeting for the delegation hosted by Mayor Dan Gibson and the Natchez Board of Aldermen from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at NAPAC museum. The elders will also visit Alcorn State University.

May 9: A symposium with the theme “Walking in the Footstep of a Prince” at the Natchez Convention Center with guest speakers from the Office of the U.S. Secretary of State, along with Trinity College and Center Church of Hartford, Conn. The elders will also meet with Natchez leaders and history organizations, including representatives of the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians. 

May 10: Tour of Natchez, including visits to antebellum homes and other historic sites.

May 11: Meeting with local family members. Meeting with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba is also planned.

May 12: Travel to Hartford, Conn., the home of Thomas Gallaudet (1787-1851), developer of American Sign Language, who assisted Abdul Rahman in raising money for his return home. The elders will also visit Trinity College. They will be joined by Mayor Dan Gibson.

May 16: Travel to Washington, D.C., where Abdul Rahman briefly stayed and gained the support of President John Quincy Adams. They will be joined by Mayor Dan Gibson.

May 21: They leave the United States and return to Africa on Tuesday, May 21.

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African descendants of Prince Ibrahima returning to Natchez

By Jackson Advocate News Service
May 6, 2024