Local literary legends explored at Guilford Fair

Shanta Lee Gander portrays Lucy Terry Prince as part of the "Lucy Speaks" exhibit on Main Street in Brattleboro in 2017.

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BRATTLEBORO — How well do you know your Guilford history? Do you know the story of Lucy Terry Prince, 18th century Guilford landowner and the first extant African-American poet? How about Royall Tyler, who wrote "The Contrast," the first comedy performed in the new United States and enjoyed by George Washington at his inaugural?

Experience these stories and more local literary history through live performance and audio storytelling when the Brattleboro Words Project brings MILES to this year's Guilford Fair, Sunday, Sept. 1 and Monday, Sept. 2. Admission to the Guilford Fair is $8 for adults, $5 for senior citizens, $2 for children 6-12, and free for children 5 and under.

The Mobile Interactive Literary Exhibition Space (MILES) will reprise the "Lucy Speaks" exhibit (curated by Marlboro College Art Professor Amy Beecher for the 2017 Brattleboro Literary Festival) on Lucy Terry Prince, and feature a live performance from Shanta Lee Gander as Lucy on Sunday. There will also be a listening booth showcasing new audio content on other sites along the Brattleboro Words Trail. The Trail, to launch at the end of 2020, showcases historic sites and figures like Lucy Terry Prince, Royall and Mary Tyler, Packer Corners, and more in self-guided audio tours of the Brattleboro area's rich history of words.

The Words Project's "Lucy Speaks" exhibit draws on the seminal work of Dr. Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, historian and author of "Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth Century Family Moved Out of Slavery and into Legend," and joins her work with Shanta Lee Gander's performance to bring this little-known local history to life. Gander has been conducting new, community-based research on Lucy Terry Prince for the Words Project, and samples of the resulting audio can be heard at the Project's Guilford Fair booth.

"I'm an African-American person born in Brattleboro, and I had never even heard of Lucy Terry Prince until very recently," said Desmond Peeples, assistant director of the Words Project. "I wish I had known about her as a kid, so I could have grown up here knowing Blackness is as deeply bonded with this place as I feel I am. There's power and healing in uncovering and sharing hidden histories like Lucy's — and her story is just the tip of an iceberg the Words Project is helping to reveal."

The Brattleboro Words Project is a multi-year collaboration of Marlboro College, Brattleboro Historical Society, Brattleboro Literary Festival, Write Action and Brooks Memorial Library backed by a National Endowment for the Humanities matching grant with support from The Windham Foundation, Edward Jones, Brattleboro Savings & Loan and other local businesses and individuals. The Project seeks public participation in research, writing and creating the "Brattleboro Words Trail," audio linked to sites of interest in the history of words for walking, biking and driving tours of our area; a book on Brattleboro's printing and publishing history; historic markers and other events presented as part of the October Brattleboro Literary Festival and throughout the year. For more information visit: www.brattleborowords.org.