The Blind African Slave or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace, As Told to Benjamin F. Prentiss, Esq.
2004, Edited and with an introduction by Kari J. Winter. University of Wisconsin Press
In 1810 in St. Albans, Vermont, a small town near the Canadian border, a narrative of slavery was published by an obscure printer. Entitled The Blind African Slave or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace, it was greeted with no fanfare, and it has remained for nearly two hundred years a faint spectre in our cultural memory.
Born in West Africa around 1742, Jeffrey Brace was captured around 1758 during a festive afternoon when he and thirteen of his friends went swimming in a river. When they got out of the water, they were surrounded by white men with dogs who succeeded in capturing eleven of them. One moment he and his friends were engaged in a "delightful sport;" moments later they were bound, gagged, and "fastened down in the boat," surrounded by "a horrid stench."
He was shipped to Barbados, where he was sold. After fighting as an enslaved sailor in the Seven Years War, Brace was taken to Connecticut and sold again. Brace later enlisted in the Continental Army in hopes of winning his manumission. After military service, he was honorably discharged and was freed from slavery. In 1784, he moved to Vermont, the first state to make slavery illegal. There he married, bought a farm, and raised a family. Although literate, he was blind when he narrated his life story to an antislavery lawyer, Benjamin Prentiss. Brace died in 1827, a well-respected abolitionist.