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Stopping Stones project honors woman enslaved in Bennington

Margaret 'Peg' Bowen Stopping Stone (1).jpg
Bennington Museum
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Bennington Museum
A commemorative stone in Bennington marks the place where Margaret "Peg" Bowen was enslaved.

People gathered in Old Bennington Saturday to honor a woman who was enslaved there in the late 1700s.

A marker engraved with the words "Margaret 'Peg' Bowen Enslaved Here 1772-1778" was placed at the site of the Catamount Tavern as part of the Stopping Stones project, which aims to bring attention to the history of slavery to advance racial equity.

A small group of staff from the Bennington Museum and volunteers have been collecting information about Bowen and other early Black Bennington residents to bring their stories to light. Deana Mallory, director of public programs at Bennington Museum, said the museum is working to do a better job of telling the story of Black Vermonters and close some gaps in its collection and exhibitions.

Bowen lived on a farm in Hadley, Mass., and was sold to Steven Fay of Bennington and enslaved at the Catamount Tavern, which was the headquarters for the Green Mountain Boys. She was eventually freed, in 1782.

Slavery has often been left out of the history of Vermont. "We take a lot of pride in that our first Constitution, in 1777, abolishes slavery, and to be fair, that is a pretty significant thing," Mallory said. "But it misses a big part of the story."

"It turns out that not everybody accepted that constitution, not everybody accepted the new government of Vermont, and there were no provisions for enforcing the rules of that constitution so slavery did continue in Vermont well into the 1800s. I think it's important for people to know that," Mallory said.

The Stopping Stone for Bowen is the fourth such marker in Vermont and one of dozens throughout New England.

Mikaela Lefrak joined VPR in summer 2021 as co-host and senior producer of 'Vermont Edition'. Prior to that, she was a reporter and host at WAMU in Washington, D.C.
Tedra joined VPR as a producer for Vermont Edition in January 2022. Before moving to Vermont, she was a journalist in New York City for 20 years. She has a master’s degree in journalism from New York University.