Lucy Terry Prince - first known African American poet

Play Audio & View Transcript

  • Lucy Terry Prince- with Desmond Peeples, Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, and Shanta Lee Gander

Tour Stop Location: Corner of Abijah Prince Road & Sweet Pond Rd

Abijah Prince Road, Brattleboro, Vermont 05301, United States
  • <p>Lucy Terry Prince by Louise Minks / © Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA.</p> <p>Lucy Terry Prince by Louise Minks / © Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA.</p>

About

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 was about 20 when the Deerfield massacre took place in 1746. 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.

Research & Production

  • 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

Ongoing Development and Involvement:

As a community-created project, we encourage ongoing dialogue, questions, and engagement. If you would like to be involved in future developments, have information or a perspective that could deepen others' understanding of this topic, please contact us: we want to hear from you.

Sharing Lucy's Story

  • <p>Shanta Lee Gander re-enacts Lucy Terry Prince's "Bars Fight" on Abijah Prince Road</p> <p>Shanta Lee Gander re-enacts Lucy Terry Prince's "Bars Fight" on Abijah Prince Road</p>
  • <p>"Lucy Speaks" - a Mobile Interactive Literary Exhibition Space (MILES) brings Lucy Terry Prince to the streets of Downtown Brattleboro</p> <p>"Lucy Speaks" - a Mobile Interactive Literary Exhibition Space (MILES) brings Lucy Terry Prince to the streets of Downtown Brattleboro.</p><p>Pictured: Curtiss Reed, Shanta Lee Gander, and Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina</p>
  • <p>Shanta Lee Gander and Stephanie Greene talking about MILES and Lucy Terry Prince</p> <p>Shanta Lee Gander and Stephanie Greene talking about MILES and Lucy Terry Prince</p>
  • <p>Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, author of "Mr. and Mrs. Prince"</p> <p>Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, author of "Mr. and Mrs. Prince"</p>

Pictured above: An image created to represent Lucy Terry Prince, by Louise Minks / © Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. Used with permission.

Raw Interviews with Shanta Lee Gander (unedited)

  • Interview with Curtiss Reed, Jr - Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity (raw - unedited- Shanta Lee Gander)

  • Interview with Steffen Gillam - Windham County NAACP - (raw/ unedited - Shanta Lee Gander)

  • Interview with Carol Forsythe (raw/ unedited - Shanta Lee Gander)

FOR MORE:

  • Bars Fight

  • Princes and Free Men: Before Your Time episode 12/19/19 - A Production of the Vermont Historical Society and Vermont Humanities Council

  • Brattleboro Places and Words: 'Lucy Speaks' - Shanta Lee Gander

  • Shanta Lee Gander & Stephanie Greene talk about the Opening of Lucy Speaks