Lucy Delaney wrote a dramatic life story of American servitude

Lucy Ann Delaney
Mon, 1828-05-26

The birth of Lucy Ann Delaney, a Black writer, in 1828 is celebrated on this date.

Lucy Ann Berry was born a slave in St. Louis, MO. She was determined to be free. Her older sister, Nancy had escaped to Canada to live in freedom; their mother, Polly Berry, had escaped and then secured her freedom in court on the grounds that she was a freeborn who had been kidnapped as a child. Berry was 12 years old when she escaped to Chicago, IL where her mother was living.

The elder Berry sued for her daughter's freedom on the grounds that she was the daughter of a freeborn and hence could not be enslaved. Although they were eventually victorious, it was a slow deliberation with young Berry spending more than a year in jail awaiting its resolution. Once Berry was freed at the age of 14, she and her mother made a life in Chicago, pursuing their trades as a seamstress and a laundress.

In 1845, she married Frederick Turner. Polly moved with the couple to Quincy, IL. Lucy's marriage was short-lived: Frederick died in an explosion aboard the steamer where he worked. Soon after Frederick's death, mother and daughter returned to St. Louis, where in 1849, she married Zachariah Delaney. This marriage produced four children, all of whom died young.

During the remainder of her life, Delaney joined the Methodist Episcopal Church and worked for her people through the Female Union, the Daughters of Zion, and other organizations. Her desire to inspire her people to make the most of freedom was behind her decision to put into print her dramatic life story, which was published around 1891: From Darkness Cometh the Light; or, Struggles for Freedom. Lucy Ann Delaney died around 1890.

Documenting the American South

To be a Writer

Person / name: 

Delaney, Lucy Ann