Lucy Terry (c.1730-1821) is the author of the oldest known work of literature by an African American.
Terry was stolen from Africa and sold into slavery as an infant. She was owned by Ebenezer Wells of Deerfield, who allowed her to be baptized into the Christian faith at about five years of age during the Great Awakening.
Her work, "Bars Fight", is a ballad about attack upon two white families by Native Americans on August 25, 1746. The attack occurred in Deerfield, Massachusetts in an area called "The Bars", which was a colonial term for a meadow. The poem was preserved orally until it was finally published in 1855.
A successful free black man named Abijah Prince purchased her freedom and married her in 1756.
In 1764, the Princes settled in Guilford, Vermont, where all six of their children were born. Their names were Tatnai, Cesar, Drucilla, Durexa, Abijah, Jr and Festus. Cesar fought in the Revolutionary War.
In 1785, when a neighboring white family threatened the Princes, they appealed to the governor and his Council for protection. The Council ordered Guilford's selectmen to defend them.
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.
She also delivered a three-hour address to the board of trustees of Williams College in order to gain admittance for her son Festus. While she was not successful, her speech was remembered for its eloquence and skill.
Prince died in 1794. By 1803, Terry moved to nearby Sunderland. She rode on horseback annually to visit his grave until the she died in 1821 on July 11.