Priscilla's Homecoming: A Remarkable Journey
Mrs. Thomalind Martin Polite, an African American woman from Charleston, South Carolina, made an extraordinary and historic journey to the West African nation of Sierra Leone, and the USF Africana Heritage Project accompanied Thomalind, to provide you with full coverage of this event.
Thomalind is known to be a direct descendant of a 10 year old girl who was kidnapped from Africa in 1756, placed aboard the slave ship Hare in Sierra Leone bound for Charleston, and sold in the Charleston market to rice planter Elias Ball.
What makes this journey so extraordinary is that a 249 year paper trail links Thomalind from the day that the Hare sailed from Sierra Leone, to the present day. This happy accident of historical preservation was brought to light by Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family, and anthropologist Joseph Opala, who has spent more than thirty years researching the Gullah/Sierra Leone connection.
Thomalind traveled to Sierra Leone at the request of the leaders of that nation, who welcomed her to her ancestral homeland. Her journey reunited Sierra Leoneans with a long-lost sister from across the sea, and she was greeted by hundreds of her kinsmen as she stepped off of the plane and stood on African soil for the first time. The Africana Heritage team was onhand to document this historic journey.
View the Priscilla's Homecoming Photo Diary to see photos of each day's events.
Follow Thomalind's Travelogue to experience a day-by-day description of the joy, sorrow and exuberance of this historic sojourn.
The Ball family records are significant for many thousands of African Americans because they name more than four thousand enslaved people, who now have hundreds of thousands of descendants. Priscilla herself has, by a conservative estimate, 25,000 descendants today. The Ball family records contain more than 600 family lineages, some seamless to the 1720's. The Africana Heritage crew is currently working to reconstruct those lineages and build family tree files for presentation here.
Who are the ancestors who await discovery in the Ball family records? Let's begin to explore, by linking Ball family freedmen's labor contracts to other historical documents. Africana Heritage Project Co-Administrator Alana Thevenet has been working to connect Ball family labor contracts to the 1870 and 1880 Census. She what she has found:
Ball Family Freedmen's Labor Contracts
Table of Contents
Related Links and Further Reading:
To learn more about this extraordinary journey, please visit Yale University''s Priscilla's Homecoming website, where you will find documents and images that tell the full story of Priscilla's capture, transportation to Charleston, and her purchase by Elias Ball. You can also read about how Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family, traced Priscilla's descendants to Thomalind's family, and how anthropologist Joseph Opala located the records of the Hare, the slave ship that took Priscilla to South Carolina in 1756.
There, you will also find press reports on Priscilla's Homecoming; a bibliography; and personal comments from Thomalind Polite, Edward Ball, and Joseph Opala.
View a clip from the upcoming Priscilla's Homecoming documentary film.
Please be sure to visit the Hartford Courant's special feature Slavery and the Persistent Memory.
Here you can read about Sierra Leone and Bunce Island, view a photo gallery and access a video gallery which includes a virtual tour of Bunce Island, an interview with Joseph Opala, and related video stories.
Visit Slave Girl's Story Revealed Through Rare Records written by Hillary Mayell for National Geographic News.
Related Resources on This Website:
Priscilla's Homecoming Official Poster: View the Priscilla's Homecoming Official Commemorative Poster!
Be sure to read and enjoy the following feature articles:
The Gullah: Rice, Slavery, and the Sierra Leone-American Connection Anthropologist Joseph A. Opala examines the link between the Gullah of the southeastern United States, and the West African country of Sierra Leone.
Freedmen's Labor in Coastal South Carolina Anthropologist Christine Bell discusses the transition from slave to free labor in South Carolina.
Priscilla's Homecoming: Lesson Plans and Resources for Teachers Find links to free lesson plans, thematic units and multi-media resources to help you make Priscilla's Homecoming a special event in your classroom!