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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, September 25, 2008
Contact: Kevin Coburn, Director of Communications
802-287-8926, coburnk@greenmtn.edu

New Historic Marker Honors
Life of Jeffrey Brace


POULTNEY--The tides of history nearly passed over the story of Jeffrey Brace, an African-born slave who won his freedom after fighting for the colonials in the American Revolution before settling in Poultney, Vt. more than two centuries ago. Thanks to an enterprising historian and the curiosity of several of Brace’s descendents still residing in New England, Brace’s extraordinary life story will be memorialized on Sunday, October 12. A 2:30 p.m. ceremony sponsored by The Poultney Historical Society and Green Mountain College’s African American Culture Club will include the dedication of a Vermont Roadside Historic Site Marker on the East Poultney village green.

Kari J. Winter, professor of American Studies at SUNY Buffalo, discovered Brace’s memoir The Blind African Slave in the special collections of the Bailey-Howe Library at the University of Vermont. “Memoirs of former slaves who remembered Africa are extremely rare, as are first-person accounts of black soldiers who served in the American Revolution,” Winter said.

Brace became blind late in his life when he narrated his story to Benjamin F. Prentiss, Esq. in 1810. The Blind African Slave provides a revealing picture of the horrors of American slavery. Brace was born as Boyrereau Brinch in West Africa around 1742 and captured by slave traders at age 16. Arriving in the Barbados and sold to a Captain Isaac Mills, he fought in the Seven Years War as an enslaved sailor and participated in the British capture of Havana in 1762. Sold to a series of cruel masters in Connecticut, he was later purchased by a widow named Mary Stiles, who taught Brace how to read. He enlisted in the Continental Army in 1777, received an honorary discharge after five years of service, and later arrived in Poultney where he settled down and married an ex-slave named Susannah (Susan) Dublin. Records show that Brace moved his family to northern Vermont around 1802—he joined the Baptist Church in Georgia, Vt. in 1805. After receiving his Revolutionary War pension, Brace died in 1827.

After eight years of research which corroborated the accuracy of Brace’s account, Winter published an updated edition of The Blind African Slave; Or, Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace in 2004. In the process, Winter’s project brought together long-sundered branches of the Brace family still living in St. Albans, Vt., and in Indian Orchard, Mass. Green Mountain College professor John Nassivera and students in GMC’s African American Culture Club took an interest in the project, and spearheaded the effort to create a permanent memorial to Brace’s extraordinary life. “The discovery of the memoir has changed, complicated, personalized and enriched our understanding of ourselves and the history of two small Vermont towns,” said Dick Hansen, president of the Poultney Historical Society.

Several members of the Brace family plan to attend the October 12 celebration. Following dedication of the Brace historic marker, professor Winter will deliver reflections and lead a discussion the United Baptist Church of East Poultney. Both events are open to the public.



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