Finding Priscilla’s Children

February 15 - May 11, 2008 NOW CLOSED

The precise number of African people transported to North America as part of the slave trade is unknown. Once sold, these men, women and children ended up living and dying in obscurity. It is rare to be able to pick out the thread of one slave’s life from this human tapestry and follow it down through history to the present day, even more unusual when that slave is a child.

Beginning Feb. 15, the story of one slave child’s life and the family tree she founded will be the subject of a new exhibit, Finding Priscilla’s Children, at the State Museum.

In 1756, Priscilla, a 10-year-old girl from Sierra Leone, was sold at auction to Elias Ball, a wealthy rice planter in South Carolina.

Priscilla’s story is told through a document trail that goes back 256 years beginning with her trip from Sierra Leone on the Rhode Island slave ship Hare and tracing her life on the Ball plantation. Dying in slavery at age 65, she was survived by 10 children. Edward Ball, a descendant of Elias Ball, discovered Priscilla’s history while researching his own family tree. This allowed the seventh generation of Priscilla’s descendants eventually to be re-united with her fellow countrymen in Sierra Leone.

“When I saw the exhibit at the New York Historical Society, I was struck by the fact that it was about a child,” said Curator of History Elaine Nichols. “Since children are a part of all families, Priscilla’s story has broad appeal as a personal story about connections and associations.”

This exhibit was curated by Joseph Opala, who was responsible for researching and organizing the Priscilla’s Homecoming event.