What does Jeffrey Brace's story tell us about the challenges faced by early Black Vermonters?
Boyrereau Brinch, later renamed Jeffrey Brace, was born in West Africa around 1742. White slave traders stole him from his home in Africa when he was a teenager. First, they sold him to an English ship captain. He was then sold in Connecticut. He was enslaved there for fifteen years.
Jeffrey Brace joined the Revolutionary War so that he could gain his freedom. He served as a soldier from 1775 until 1783. He left the military after injuring his leg in battle. He returned to Connecticut to live with Benjamin Stiles, the man who enslaved him at the time. Stiles agreed to manumit(release from slavery or set free) Jeffrey Brace. Stiles gave him some money to start a new life.
In 1784, Jeffrey Brace moved to Vermont because it was the first to outlaw(make something illegal) slavery. There he met and married his wife, Susannah Dublin, a free Black woman. They bought land in Poultney, Vermont and farmed together. Sadly, they were forced to leave their farm in Poultney because of greedy neighbors who wanted to take their land and force their children to become servants.
The Brace family moved to northern Vermont, where Brace lived the rest of his life. As an old man, Brace wanted to share his story with the world. Since he became blind in his old age, he decided to tell his life story out loud. A lawyer named Benjamin Prentiss wrote down Jeffrey Brace’s important words. The book is called The Blind African Slave or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nick-Named Jeffrey Brace. It is a rare and important account of what life was like for Black people living in New England during this time.
Thinking About History
Historians ask questions to think deeply about history.
Jeffrey Brace wrote his book to "[open] the hearts of those who hold slaves and...give [the slaves] the freedom which they themselves enjoy, and which all mankind have an equal right to possess." How can talking about slavery help end slavery?
How have Vermonters experienced racism in the past? How do Vermonters experience racism today?
Follow the links below to explore related topics.
What name should we use today to remember this remarkable man?
Read an article about Jeffrey Brace's historical marker
Look at a photograph of Jeffrey Brace's historical roadside marker in East Poultney, Vermont
Take a virtual tour of Rokeby Museum's exhibit "Free and Safe" to learn more about life for Black people in 1800s Vermont
Copy and paste this citation to show where you did your research.
Vermont Historical Society. "Jeffrey Brace." Vermont History Explorer. Accessed December 5, 2023. https://blog.vermonthistoryexplorer.org/jeffrey-brace