College Students in Vermont Obtain Recognition for a Black Slave Who Fought in the Revolutionary War

Students at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont, successfully lobbied for the erection of a historical marker in the town square honoring Jeffrey Brace, the town’s first black resident.

Brace was born in West Africa in 1742. He was enslaved at age 16 and transported to the Caribbean island of Barbados. As a slave he fought for the British in the French and Indian War. After the war he was sold to a slave master in Connecticut. When his master died, his widow taught Brace to read, write, and speak proper English.

At the onset of the Revolutionary War, Brace, with the approval of his owner, enlisted in the Continental Army. He was wounded in battle. At the end of the war Brace was granted his freedom.

The former slave then moved to Poultney, Vermont, where he bought land and became a farmer. Brace became blind in his old age. But in 1810 he told his story to Benjamin F. Prentiss who published the memoir as The Blind African Slave.

The book was forgotten until it was discovered more than a decade ago in the special collections unit of the University of Vermont library by Kari J. Winter, associate professor of American studies at the University of Buffalo. Over an eight-year period, Dr. Winter verified the memoir and found Brace’s descendants. In 2004 she republished the memoir with a new introduction which includes her documentation verifying its authenticity.