Born free in Groton, MA, grew up in Dracut, MA. Lew was a cooper who fought in the French and Indian War and served as a soldier in the American Revolution for seven years. He was one of the 150 African Americans who fought at Bunker Hill, which represented about five percent of the Patriot’s forces there. After fighting the British in Saratoga, Lew was one of the musicians who played as the British surrendered.

After the war, Barzillai and his wife, Dinah (whose freedom he had purchased in 1767 so they could be married), settled in Lowell, MA. They farmed, raised a large family of musical children, and belonged to the church that organized the first anti-slavery meeting in the region. The powder horn that Lew used at Bunker Hill can be seen in Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History.

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