Lucy Terry Prince (1730 - 1821) was a freed literate and learned African woman, a writer and orator whose legal arguments swayed the Vermont Republic's highest court. In 1764, Lucy and her husband Abijah, a free black couple, settled in Guilford as one of Guilford's first landowning settlers. There, they raised six children, created a gathering space for local slaves and freed people, and defended their rights as landowners against the vicious efforts of certain racist neighbors. The Prince family, and Lucy Terry in particular, left an indelible mark on the history and identity of Vermont. By the end of the 18th century, Guilford was the most popular town in Vermont and the Princes were one of its most prominent families. Their home was an embattled and unshakable center of black community, secured largely by the anomalous power of Lucy herself.
Lucy Terry Prince's only known surviving poem is called Bars Fight. Lucy Terry Prince was about 20 years old and enslaved in Deerfield in 1746 when a violent massacre between settlers and the indigenous people of the area occurred. The incident became known as the bars fight because it happened on the ‘bars’, a colonial term for meadow. She documented this historical incident in her poem, the oldest known work of literature by an African American. Bars Fight survived in oral tradition about 100 years after her death, and appeared in print for the first time in 1854 on the front page of the Springfield Daily Republican.
Audio Producer: Desmond Peeples
Audio Narrator: Desmond Peeples
Reading One, from “Mr & Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth Century Couple Moved Out of Slavery and Into Legend“ read by author Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina.
Reading of Bars Fight, comments and research: Shanta Lee Gander
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Pictured above: An image created to represent Lucy Terry Prince, by Louise Minks / © Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. Used with permission.