The Museum of the American Revolution may have an extraordinary relic in its possession.
Philly.com reports the museum houses what is believed to be the only surviving powder horn of a slain African-American Revolutionary War soldier. The horn belonged to Gershom Prince, a free Black soldier in the war. It is intricately designed with flowers, birds, a boat and a small house and hosts his signature, revealing that Prince was literate in a time where literacy for Black men and women was deadly.
“What’s so rare is to have an object with a personal identification,” said Philip Mead, the museum's chief historian and curatorial director.
The flowers Prince carved, echoes of similar designs found within the middle class, demonstrate his status. The horn also boasts a date, “Sept. ye. 3rd Day 1761,” and a warning to thieves: “Steal not for fear of shame.”
Unsurprisingly, though, not much else is known of Gershom Prince. The horn was found on his body after he was killed in the Battle of Wyoming, a battle in northeastern Pennsylvania where more than 300 colonial soldiers were killed. The horn was given to Prince’s family, and for generations, it was passed down until the ‘50s. The family then lent it to the Luzerne County Historical Society which has, in turn, loaned it to the museum. It will go on exhibit through the end of the year.
Artifacts like the horn offer an intimate peek into the lives of African-Americans. As Blavity previously reported, the Museum of the Bible shared a “Slave Bible” that had been used by enslaved people throughout the 19th century. Themes of freedom had been omitted in exchange for themes of obedience, submission and acceptance.
Denise Dennis, a relative of Prince's, spoke about the importance of the horn concerning African Americans and the country at large.
“This can change perceptions about race in this country, about the contributions of African Americans and our basic humanity,” she said.
Her words ring true for historical artifacts related to African Americans. They often tell an unknown but unfathomably important story.
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