1st Poem Composed by an African American Woman

: "Much in the achievements of Jupiter Hammon of Long Island and Lucy Terry Prince of Massachusetts and Vermont offers food for comparison. The pioneer black poet and poetess share race and literary priority as well as social status as chattel property in 18th-century America. Hammon has already received a measure of recognition as the first published African-American poet, with his broadside An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ With Penetential Cries, in 1761. Hammon's fame, nevertheless, rests on but seven poems and four prose pieces discovered eightyseven years ago.

Lucy Terry Prince, on the other hand, is credited with but a single poem, composed fourteen years before Hammon, although not until recently recognized as the first poetry by any black American. Both Hammon and Prince, however, have been overshadowed by Phillis Wheatley, whose precocity attracted attention in her own time and won for her contemporary literary recognition here and abroad.

There are, it seems, some differences of opinion even among scholars about where the study of black written poetry begins. Some, like Hughes and Bontemps in The Poetry of the Negro, begin with Lucy Terry, but The Negro Caravan, by Brown, Davis and Lee omits her altogether and opens with Phillis Wheatley. William H. Robinson acknowledges Terry in Early Black."

: Lucy Terry was kidnapped in West Africa as an infant and sold into slavery. She was owned by Ebenezer Wells of Deerfield, Massachusetts, who allowed her to be baptized into the Christian faith at about five years of age during the Great Awakening.

: Although best known as the author of the first poem composed by an African American woman, Lucy Terry Prince was a remarkable woman whose many accomplishments included arguing a case before the Supreme Court.

In 1756, Lucy Terry married Abijah Prince, a prosperous free black man who purchased her freedom.

: When a Colonel Eli Bronson attempted to steal land owned by the Princes, as a persuasive orator; Terry successfully negotiated a land case before the Supreme Court of Vermont in the 1790s. She argued against two of the leading lawyers in the state, (one of who later became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont) and won her case against the false land claims of Colonel Eli Bronson. Samuel Chase, the presiding justice of the Court, said that her argument was better than he'd heard from any Vermont lawyer.

: Although Lucy Terry was a poet, only one of her poems, a ballad called "Bars Fight" has survived, about an attack upon two white families by Native Americans on August 25, 1746. The attack occurred in , in an area called "The Bars," which was a colonial term for a meadow.

: Lucy Terry's " Bars Fight ", was first published in 1855 in Josiah Holland's History of Western Massachusetts.

Lucy Terry died in 1821, at the age of 97.


Samuel Allen like a hero fout
And though he was so brave and bold
His face no more shall we behold.
Eleazer 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
Samuel Amsden they found dead
Not many rods off from his head.
Adonijah Gillet we do hear

Did lose his life which was so dear.
John Saddler fled across the water
And so escaped the dreadful slaughter.
Eunice Allen see the Indians coming
And hoped to save herself by running
And had not her petticoats stopt her

The awful creatures had not cotched her
And tommyhawked her on the head
And left her on the ground for dead.
Young Samuel Allen, Oh! lack a-day
Was taken and carried to Canada.

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8 Comments With Humanity:

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

great post and nice blog. chk out this black history month when u can and let me know what u think The father of Jim Crow

ndpthepoetress - Jeane Michelle Culp said...

Hello Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T of Raw Dawg Buffalo and Bloggers' Delight...to Write, Thanks for your comment! I was thrilled to read your post The father of Jim Crow. I found myself intellectually stirred and found your words to represent the true meaning of freedom at it’s best!

Ann said...

Michelle, I just wanted to commend you on your wonderful contributions to black history month.

Great job~


ndpthepoetress - Jeane Michelle Culp said...

Thanks Ann of A Nice Place In the Sun for your kind words and spreading Sunshine here at Binding Ink!

Vanessa said...

Jeane, another great black history post. Thank you. Please keep posting on black history throughout the year.

ndpthepoetress - Jeane Michelle Culp said...

Hi Vanessa! I agree that African-American History shouldn't just be acknowledged merely one month out of the year, as every month there are new milestones being accomplished, made possible by those who have already earned their deserving place in history. In honor of such: Deval Laurdine Patrick (Jan 2007) the 71st governor of Massachusetts - the 2nd Black Elected Gov. In U.S. History and this year Mike Carey - the first Black referee at a Super Bowl!

Princess Haiku said...

Hi Jeanne,
Stopped to visit. Your post on Alice Walker is very interesting. I heard her lecture once in Berkeley and found her to be a deeply spiritual person.

ndpthepoetress - Jeane Michelle Culp said...

Hello Princess Haiku, wow you are so fortunate to have had the opportunity to hear a lecture by Alice Walker! I can almost sense her spiritualness in much of her writings. She is deserving of her recognitions and many awards such as being the first African-American Woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction!

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