Unsung Heroes - the Black Soldiers of the American Revolution

Topics: American Revolutionary War, Continental Army, Black people Pages: 8 (2659 words) Published: July 24, 2013




Leanne Fleming

HIS 266–800
America’s history has been shaped by her people – ALL of her people. Until recently, the history books have managed to present a very one–sided view which conveys the impression that the deeds and actions which formed this great country were almost exclusively carried out by America’s white population. History books have made it believable because they have sprinkled in small doses of other nationalities and races. The worst part is that the vast majority of the people of the United States of America have bought it hook, line and sinker. The majority will continue to believe that history until the day they die because that is what they were taught in school and I feel sad for them. Those Americans are missing out on an added depth and richness in our history because they cannot or will not accept that this country was shaped by more than the occasional exceptional black person they studied in school like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, George Washington Carver and Frederick Douglass. They refuse to see that acknowledging the efforts and sacrifices made by those who were not white only makes us stronger as a nation and our heritage even more glorious. Admittedly, I was one of those unenlightened ones until very recently. At the risk of sounding cliché, I have seen the light. I got my wake–up call when my African–American History instructor made a statement to this effect, “African–Americans played a part throughout American History, not just at specific points like slavery, the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. They helped shape this nation every step of the way.” It makes sense when you think about it because African–Americans have been here from the beginning – how can they not have played a part in shaping this country and making it what is today? I have never considered myself to be racist but after taking this class, I realize that in some ways I have been – not actively or viciously, but mostly by just accepting as gospel what I was taught in school and not asking more questions. I am learning things that make me want to dig deeper and question more and that can only be a good thing.

One of the things that fascinated me the most was the role of African–Americans, in the American Revolution. I do not remember any being praised for their heroic actions in my long ago history classes. (Maybe part of the reason for that is that I went to grade school in the early 1960s.) But seriously, why would anyone want to fight a war for freedom and equal representation when they themselves had not representation and were not free? I believe the question answers itself; they fought because it gave them a shot at gaining their liberty and a chance to regain their sense of self and dignity. It also explains why African–Americans fought on both sides; since their ultimate goal was their own freedom, they fought for the side they believed gave them the best chance of getting it (class notes). Dunmore’s Proclamation promising freedom to slaves that fought for the British combined with George Washington’s declaration early in the war that no blacks would be permitted to serve in the Continental Army pretty much guaranteed that slaves would flock to fight for Great Britain. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 African–Americans served in the British Army, largely because the British offered them their freedom in return for their service. The most famous of these were the Ethiopian Regiment Colonel Tye. Only about 1,000 are know to have actually taken up arms while the rest served the British by performing the everyday mundane tasks like cooking, laundry and laborers (Elizabeth Goodridge, Paul Rastatter, Continental Army website (CA), National Park Service website (NPS), class notes). According to the National Park Service, a total of 231,771 soldiers who fought for the colonies’ freedom in state and...

References: "African–Americans During the American Revolution – Teacher Reference Sheet." The
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2006
"Continental Army." American Military and Naval History. 2 Feb. 2010. Web. 6 Dec.
"James Armistead." Black History in America. Black History in America, 2001-2011. Web.
30 Nov. 2011. .
"Lord Dunmore 's Ethiopian Regiment." Black Past.org. Web. 24 Nov. 2011.
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