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In the Classroom > African Americans Lessons > Three Great Women

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About Lucy Terry Prince

In 1735, Lucy Terry was brought to Deerfield, Massachusetts, to be the slave of Mr. and Mrs. Wells. She was 5 years old. She had to work for them, but Mrs. Wells thought it was important that Lucy learn to read and write too. When she was 16, Native Americans attacked some Deerfield people while they were working in their farm fields. Lucy knew these people and she was very upset about what had happened, so she wrote a poem about the attack. Lucy was a very good storyteller and she told her poem to those around her for many years. It didn't get printed until after she died.

Lucy fell in love with a free black man named Abijah Prince. He worked hard to save money to buy her freedom. Once he made her free, they married and moved to Guilford, Vermont. Some of their white neighbors didn't like having the Prince family next door because they were black. These white neighbors were mean to the Princes so Lucy asked the governor of Vermont for help. He ordered that the leaders of Guilford protect the Prince family.

According to stories told by Deerfield people who knew Lucy, one of her sons wanted to go to Williams College, which was just opening at that time. The college would not let him be a student there because he was black. They only wanted white students. Lucy asked for a special meeting with the leaders of the college. People say that she spoke to the leaders of the college for 3 hours about why her son should be allowed to be a student there. Unfortunately, the leaders did not agree with her and her son never got to go to the new Williams College.

Another neighbor of Lucy's tried to say that part of the Prince's farm really belonged to him. This time the problem had to be settled by the most important court in Vermont, the Vermont State Supreme Court. Lucy argued with these men, and the judge and his court decided that the Princes were right and the neighbor did not own part of their farm. The judge of this important court said that Lucy did a better job of fighting for her land than any lawyer in Vermont could have done! Also, going to court and speaking out as Lucy did were things women did not usually do. That was considered a man's job. Everybody was very impressed with what Lucy had done!

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