African Americans and the American Revolution. Dr. Greg O’Brien Department of History University of Southern Mississippi. A Fight for Freedom. Crispus Attucks, Boston Massacre, 1770 Virginia Governor Dunmore’s Proclamation, May / November 1775
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African Americans and the American Revolution Dr. Greg O’Brien Department of History University of Southern Mississippi
A Fight for Freedom • Crispus Attucks, Boston Massacre, 1770 • Virginia Governor Dunmore’s Proclamation, May / November 1775 • Jeremiah’s insurrection in Charleston, June 1775 • A New England slave argues against slavery, 1776 • Prince, the slave, appeals to his master, 1777 • Shouts of “Liberty!”
George Washington’s Fears • Called for immediate defeat of Dunmore in Va. • Free Blacks (and many slaves) in north wanted to join American army • New England states muster Blacks • 1st Rhode Island Regiment, formed 1778 • Battle of Rhode Island at Newport, August 1778 and other engagements • John Laurens’s scheme, 1778/79 • Washington’s own slaves 1st Rhode Island Regiment
The Case of James Armistead • A slave from Virginia • Enlisted as a spy on American side in 1781 • Provided intelligence on British movements to the Marquis de Lafayette • Infiltrated Benedict Arnold’s forces • Lafayette’s certificate
More slaves sought freedom by joining British forces • Allegiance to freedom • 75,000 – 100,000 slaves joined British • 5,000 in Georgia • 25,000 in South Carolina • 30,000 in Virginia • Why? • Enemies of their masters • British promised freedom • Dunmore’s Proclamation Black Loyalist Soldier
Manual Labor Risk of re-enslavement Slaves promised as compensation for American (and sometimes British) service British failed to live up to promises Maroon communities especially in S.C. Battle of Yorktown, 1781 Cornwallis orders 5,000 Blacks out of the British encampment due to starvation Some ex-slaves evacuated to Nova Scotia, Jamaica, Bahamas, and Sierra Leone Realities for escaped slaves fighting in the war
Major changes north of the Mason-Dixon Line By 1804 all northern states had adopted at least gradual emancipation Upper South Economic changes (away from tobacco) Easier manumission Growth of free Black population Virginia considers gradual abolition Lower South Economic changes (cotton) Growth of slavery Importing from the upper South and from Africa Harsher laws Initiatives by Blacks Name changes Formation of churches / schools / businesses Gabriel Prosser’s Rebellion in Virginia, 1800 Revolutionary changes after the war?