“Lucy Speaks: Remembering early Brattleboro-area resident, Lucy Terry Prince, the first known African American poet, former slave, and eloquent advocate for equal treatment under the law,” debuts at the 16th-annual Brattleboro Literary Festival on Saturday and Sunday, October 14 and 15 in MILES, a ‘Mobile Interactive Literary Exhibition Space’ or traveling museum created by and for the Words Project. MILES will roll out the exhibit in front of Key Bank on Main Street from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
“Lucy Speaks” invites visitors to walk or wheel inside the fully ADA accessible space and experience Lucy’s stirring words and her times. Lucy argued successfully before the top judicial body of early Vermont to keep her land when harassed and challenged by white neighbors. According to Literary Festival director Sandy Rouse, “Visitors to ‘Lucy Speaks’ will be encouraged to share their own stories and learn how one person’s voice – like Lucy’s – can make a difference.”
Brattleboro-based storyteller and writer Shanta Lee will perform the Lucy Terry’s only extant poem “Bars Fight” on the hour on Saturday, October 14th, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday October, 15th at 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. engaging audiences in a dialogue on Lucy. (Students from Marlboro College will also present a performance based on Lucy’s life and times) Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, scholar and author of Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth Century Family Moved Out of Slavery and into Legend, inspired much of the exhibit and she will be a featured speaker at the festival from 9:30 am-10:45 am on Saturday, October 14th, at the Centre Congregational Church. She will be reading with Wendy Warren, author of New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
The “Lucy Speaks” MILES exhibit was conceived by the Brattleboro Literary Festival and The Downtown Brattleboro Alliance, which won a $2,500 National Main Street grant from Edward Jones. Ana Saaveda organized the local Edward Jones offices to contribute and so did the Sunrise Rotary Club for MILES’s later use on Flat Street. Marlboro College Art Professor Amy Beecher curated and designed the exhibit with Curatorial team Jerry Carbone, Sandy Rouse, Lissa Weinmann and Sarah Kovach. “Lucy’s story and the whole Words Project are inspiring Marlboro College students to become actively engaged in Brattleboro as an incredibly rich learning environment,” MILES curator Amy Beecher said.
A large map of Windham County next to MILES will encourage passersby to ‘pin’ places they think may be interesting to research for the audio tours. “The Project aims to gather as much feedback from the community as possible and foster a connection between people and places in the area. Scholars from a variety of disciplines will guide these classroom and mixed age and background citizen pods through deeper study and creativity” says Lissa Weinmann, director of the Words Project. “The whole process will showcase the uniqueness of Brattleboro, help attract more visitors and respect for the riches to be found here, and foster a greater sense of belonging and pride in everyone who lives here.”