History December 17, 2018 at 06:00 pm

This 16-yr-old West African-born girl wrote the first known poem composed by a black American

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson | Staff Writer

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson December 17, 2018 at 06:00 pm

December 17, 2018 at 06:00 pm | History

Described as an orator, poet and abolitionist, Lucy Terry Prince is a significant figure in Black history for her immense contribution to African American literature and history.

Lucy was kidnapped from West Africa at a very tender age and brought to America by traders who thought of selling her into slavery. It is believed that she was born in 1732 and was stolen as an infant because, at the time, babies were in high demand by wealthy families in the West. 

Shortly after she was brought into America, she was sold in Rhode Island and was purchased by Samuel Terry until he died. She was later purchased by wealthy plantation owner Ebenezer Wells. Lucy was about 4 years old when she was purchased by Ebenezer Wells and was taken into his home in Deerfield, Massachusetts. 

Lucy Terry Prince

Ebenezer and his wife treated Lucy like their own child and gave her a  good education after noticing her intelligence. Though Lucy worked for the Wells, she was not treated like other enslaved Africans. During the Great Awakening, the Wells allowed Lucy to be baptized and become a Christian.

In 1746, Lucy Terry wrote her first and only known poem at the age of 16. The poem was titled  ‘Bars Fight’ and was inspired by the August 25, 1746 attack of two white families by Native Americans.  Lucy’s poem gives an account of the attacks while expressing pain and fear through the characters and was highly applauded.

Lucy’s poem was published in 1855 in the History of Western Massachusetts  by American writer Josiah Gilbert Holland who found the poem to be a remarkable piece of history and literature after hearing it. Her publication made her the second black person in America after Phillis Wheatly to have her works published.

According to  Biography.com, Lucy Terry became known as Lucy Terry Prince in 1756 after she married Abijah Prince, a successful free black man who purcahsed Lucy’s freedom from the Wells and the couple had 6 children together.

While educating her children, Lucy became popularly known as a storyteller and orator. Lucy and her husband were well respected in society for their wealth and handwork as well as not being afraid to call out racists when neccesary.

Illustration depiction of Lucy in her old age 

For attempting to claim her land, Lucy Terry Prince took Colonel Eli Bronson to court in Vermont where she lived with her family and Biography. com states that the Prince family was said to have emerged victorious.

Lucy’s sons fought in the revolutionary war. After her husband died in  1794, Lucy moved to Sunderland and lived there with her family until she died in 1821.

Read her poem ‘Bars Fight’ below:

         August ‘twas the twenty-fifth,
        Seventeen hundred forty-six;
        The Indians did in ambush lay,
        Some very valiant men to slay,
        The names of whom I’ll not leave out.
        Samuel Allen like a hero
fout,
        And though he was so brave and bold,
        His face no more shalt we behold
        
Eteazer Hawks was killed outright,
        Before he had time to fight, –
        Before he did the Indians see,
        Was shot and killed immediately.
        Oliver
Amsden he was slain,
        Which caused his friends much grief and pain.
        Simeon
Amsden they found dead,
        Not many rods distant from his head.
        Adonijah
Gillett we do hear
        Did lose his life which was so dear.
        John Sadler fled across the water,
        And thus escaped the dreadful slaughter.
        Eunice Allen see the Indians coming,
        And hopes to save herself by running,
        And had not her petticoats stopped her,
        The awful creatures had not
catched her,
        Nor
tommy hawked her on the head,
        And left her on the ground for dead.
        Young Samuel Allen, Oh lack-a-day!
        Was taken and carried to C
anada.

 

Conversations

Must Read