Posted on 02/03/2014

Photo taken on August  1, 1915

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Jesse Daisy Turner
African American Woman
Vintage Portrait
Vintage Clothing
circa 1915
Boston, Mass
Parents were slaves ...
She was 104yrs old when she died

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Photo replaced on February 12, 2014
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Daisy Turner

Daisy Turner
Daisy Turner (photographed here in Boston, MA circa 1915), was born on June 21, 1883 in Grafton, Vermont one of thirteen children to Alec and Sally Turner, freed slaves. Her family story is a multigenerational saga spanning two centuries, and played out on three continents. The story has been carefully preserved, anchoring the family in a distant past that details the English merchant trade in Africa, shipwreck, romance, the slave trade and capture, the obscurity of the middle passage, two generations of slavery, escape to freedom, determination to succeed and the eventual establishment of a family farm in Vermont, known as "Journey's End."

Daisy was famous for her oral recordings of her family's history. Her great-grandmother was shipwrecked while traveling from England to Africa on her honeymoon during the early 19th century. She was saved by an African chieftain's son, and had a child with him (Daisy's grandfather, Alexander). Alexander was captured by a slave trader and taken to New Orleans, where he was bought by John Gouldin and taken to Gouldin's plantation in Port Royal, Virginia. There, Daisy's father, Alec, was born a slave. Alec was taught to read by the master's granddaughter, and later escaped, joining the Union Army during the Civil War. In the Spring of 1863, Turner guided his regiment to his old plantation in Port Royal, Virginia where he allegedly killed his former cruel overseer. After the Civil War, the Turner family moved north, where her father worked in a saw mill and raised enough money to purchase 100 acres in Grafton, Vermont and build Journey's End Farm.

Daisy Turner was proud of her family heritage, and was a strong, outspoken woman from childhood to her death at the age of 104. She's remembered as a gifted storyteller and family historian. She is the subject of the Vermont Folklife Center's Peabody Award-winning audio documentary, "Journey's End: The Memories and Traditions of Daisy Turner". Stories from her life have also been the subject of two Vermont Folklife Center books, "Alec's Primer" and "Daisy and the Doll". Daisy Turner maintained Journey's End after her parents' deaths. The Turner family homestead is located on the "Daisy Turner Loop", a biking trail near Grafton Pond.

Daisy can be seen reciting Civil War poetry, at the remarkable age of 104, in Ken Burns' critically acclaimed PBS documentary, The Civil War. One of Turner's favorite personal stories, which she recounted often, involved a school pageant when Turner was about eight years old. In the pageant, Turner's teacher had instructed Turner to recite a poem with a black doll, but at the last minute, Turner resisted and spontaneously made up her own poem: "You needn't crowd my dolly out, Although she's black as night; And if she is at the foot of this show, I think she'll stand as good a chance, As the dollies that are white..."

She won first prize.

This story became the subject of a children's book by Michael Medearis and Angela Shelf Medearis, and receives scholarly attention in Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, by Robin Bernstein. Daisy Turner's story continues to attract wide attention as part of an effort to preserve the folk history of Vermont and the United States.

She died on February 2, 1988 at the age of 104. She's buried at Brookside Cemetery, in Chester Windsor County in Vermont.

Ms. Turner age 104 reciting her poem titled, "Madam"
3 years ago.