Ben Pease and I talked with the amazing Vermont poet, writer and artist Shanta Lee Gander who gives lectures on the life of Lucy Terry Prince as a member of the Vermont Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. As we are the end of Black History Month, we wanted to take a moment to really honor the fact that Vermont was home to one the the author of the first known work of African American literature (the poem “Bars Fight”). We talk about early African American land ownership; oral traditions in poetry, and orality in black tradition and some of the projects and themes in Gander’s life.
Lucy Terry Prince (1730 – 1821) 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 highest court at the time. Lucy was stolen from Africa as an infant and sold to Ebenezer Wells of Deerfield, Massachusetts. She was baptized during the Great Awakening, and nineteen years later, at the age of 20, she was “admitted to the fellowship of the church.” Only one of her poems, a ballad called “Bars Fight,” has survived. In 1756, Lucy Terry married Abijah Prince, a prosperous free black man who purchased her freedom. Their first child was born the following year, and by 1769 they had five others. In the 1760s, the Prince family moved to Guilford, Vermont.
Shanta Lee Gander is a multidisciplinary artist working in the mediums of writing and photography with a range of published work and books including GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA: Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak in Woke Tongues (Diode Editions, 2020) and author of a forthcoming collection, Black Metamorphoses, that is being published through Etruscan Press. Her collaborative exhibition Dark Goddess is on display now at the Fleming Museum.
To see Shanta Lee’s photography and writing, visit Shantaleegander.com.