From the “Atlanta Black Star” originally published online on April 24, 2014 and written by Runoko Rashidi:
It was in 180 C.E. that the first known Christian martyrs of Africa were executed. One of the most famous and most outstanding acts of martyrdom, however, occurred in the year 203 C.E. and centers around two young incredibly brave African women–Perpetua and Felicity. The account of their deaths, known as “The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity,” was so inspiring and popular in the early centuries that it was read during liturgies.
In the year 203 C.E., Perpetua made the decision to become a Christian, although she knew it could mean her death. Her father was frantic with worry and tried to talk her out of her decision. His motivation is understandable for at 22 years of age, this well-educated, high-spirited woman had every reason to want to live–including an infant son whom she was still nursing.
Perpetua was arrested with four others, including Felicity, another African woman. Perpetua was baptized before being taken to prison–a prison that was so crowded with people that the heat was suffocating. For Felicity it was even worse as she suffered from the stifling heat, overcrowding, and rough handling while she was eight months pregnant.