Note: In our continuing series of posts touching on the long history of Moroccan-American relations, we reproduce below the text of a passport issued to the “Prince Among Slaves,” Abd al Rahman Ibrahima Sori. Passports in those days were not what we think of today; they were basically safe conduct letters.
The President at whose orders the passport was issued was John Quincy Adams, a tireless opponent of slavery, and the Secretary of State who signed it was Henry Clay (below photo of Clay’s signature from Prince Among Slaves website).
I was not aware of the intervention of the Moroccan sultan to free Muslim slaves in America until reading Jonathan Curiel’s excellent article in Saudi Aramco World Magazine in April 2010.
Prince Among Slaves, Terry Alford’s 1977 book, was made into an award-winning film (whose website provides excellent historic background on slavery and Muslim slaves in America). The book provides the text of Ibrahima’s passport, which will become part of an exhibit here at the TALIM museum.
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Department of State, Washington, 17th January 1829
The President of the United States, having been informed that the bearer hereof, Abduhl Rahhahman, was held in a state of slavery by a citizen of the United States, that he was of Moorish descent, and a person of much consideration in his native country of Africa, and that his emancipation from slavery would be very agreeable to the Emperor of Morocco, the undersigned Secretary of State of the United States was directed by the President, to adopt measures for the liberation of the before-mentioned Moor, Abduhl Rahhahman, and for his transportation to his family and connections and native country. His manumission was accordingly procured from the citizen of the United States who held him as a slave, and he came to this City, at the public expense, last spring. It was the President’s intention to have him transported to Tangier, to be delivered to the Emperor of Morocco, but as Abduhl Rahhahman prefers going to the American Colony of Liberia, on the coast of Africa, from whence he expects to be able to reach his relations, the President yields to his desire, and accordingly he proceeds to Norfolk, in company of his wife, to obtain, at the expense of the United States, a vessel chartered by the American Colonization Society, which is preparing to sail for Liberia, about the 20th of this month.
In testimony of the foregoing I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the Seal of the Department of State this 17th day of January, in the year of our Lord 1829.