August 25, 2011

Though he was so brave and bold

Lucy Terry does not qualify as the first African poet published in the United States (that honor goes to Phillis Wheatley), but she is recognized as the first African to create a work of literature. Her only known work is a poem, "The Bars Fight," which recounts a raid by Native Americans against her adopted town of Deerfield, Massachusetts on August 25, 1746. Little is known about Terry herself, though it is believed she was kidnapped from her native Africa when she was still a child. By 1756, she was a free woman and married to Abijah Prince. She wrote this poem at about age 22:

August, 'twas the twenty-fifth,
Seventeen houndred forty-six,
The Indians did in ambush lay,
Some very valiant men to slay.
'Twas nigh unto Sam Dickinson's mill,
The Indians there five men did kill.
The names of whom I'll not leave out,
Samuel Allen like a hero foute,
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 pain.
Simeon Amsden they found dead
Not many rods from Oliver's head.
Adonijah Gillett, we do hear,
Did lose his life which was so dear,
John Sadler fled across the water,
And thus escaped the dreadful slaughter.
Eunice Allen see the Indians comeing
And hoped to save herself by running;
And had not her petticoats stopt her,
The awful creatures had not cotched her,
Nor 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.

"Bars" here is another words for "meadows." The poem, apparently preserved through oral tradition, was finally collected by Josiah G. Holland in his 1855 book History of Western Massachusetts. The poem was considered an accurate representation of the historic incident.


  1. Prof. Gretchen Gerzina's Mr. and Mrs. Prince is a good study on Lucy Terry’s life and marriage.

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