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Courtesy of Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield, Mass./Commons file

Leverett, Mass.–based artist Louise Minks created this portrait of Lucy Terry Prince based on her research. No known likeness exists of Prince, considered the first African American poet in the country, and whose life and work will be honored by multiple proclamations and a historic marker.

The Arts

RFPL offers online event celebrating life of Lucy Terry Prince

BELLOWS FALLS—On Thursday, Jan. 13, at 6:30 p.m., Shanta Lee Gander will present via Zoom, “Bearing Witness and Endurance of Voice: The Legacy of Lucy Terry Prince,” a program detailing the life story of Lucy Terry Prince, hosted by the Rockingham Free Public Library.

Lucy Terry Prince was born in Africa, where she was kidnapped by slave traders and then transported to Rhode Island. While still enslaved in 1746, she wrote “Bars Fight,” the oldest known poem written by an African American in the United States.

Prince later regained her freedom and moved to Vermont with her husband, Abijah Prince, and fought for her family’s land rights all the way to the highest court in Vermont.

In this presentation, Gander illustrates Prince’s importance as a poet and orator, and as one unafraid to fight for her rights within the landscape of early Vermont, New England, and America. Gander will also perform Lucy’s only surviving poem, “Bars Fight.”

This event is a Vermont Humanities Council program hosted by the RFPL and supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is free, open to the public, and accessible to those with disabilities. For more information, contact the RFPL at 802-463-4270 or email

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Originally published in The Commons issue #646 (Wednesday, January 12, 2022). This story appeared on page A7.

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