Merging comprehensive research and grand storytelling, Mr. and Mrs. Prince reveals the true story of a remarkable pre-Civil War African-American family, as well as the challenges that faced African-Americans who lived in the North versus the slaves who lived in the South.
Lucy Terry, a devoted wife and mother, was the first known African-American poet and Abijah Prince, her husband, was a veteran of the French and Indian wars and an entrepreneur. Together they pursued what would become the cornerstone of the American dreamhaving a family and owning property where they could live, grow, and prosper. Owning land in both Vermont and Massachusetts, they were well on their way to settling in when bigoted neighbors tried to run them off. Rather than fleeing, they asserted their rights, as they would do many times, in court.
Here is a story that not only demonstrates the contours of slavery in New England but also unravels the most complete history of a pre-Civil War black family known to exist. Illuminating and inspiring, Mr. and Mrs. Prince uncovers the lives of those who could have been forgotten and brings to light a history that has intrigued but eluded many until now.
Years of strenuous digging in the account books and personal papers of whites who knew the Princes have enabled Gerzina to present a moving, if less than rounded, portrait of a striving family. Eighteenth-century Yankees kept track of everything: the work and pay of the slaves they owned and rented, even what they bought at the store. But Mr. and Mrs. Prince isn'tit can't bethe inner life of a vernacular poet and her enterprising husband. Instead of lamenting the limits of the evidence, the author spins a parallel story out of the dig for evidence.