Free African Americans in the RW

More than just Slaves

Research Introduction

“Give me liberty, or give me death!” - Patrick Henry. Patrick Henry was willing to take the risk of getting killed for his freedom in the Revolutionary War and he wasn’t the only one who was willing to take that risk. Enslaved Africans wanted their freedom just as bad as the Americans, and they were willing to do whatever it takes. In 1638 colonists were buying black slaves from Africa because they found that Africans were cheap and relatively immune to diseases. (Rawley 994) Eventually as more and more people wanted slaves, more and more Africans were being exported from Africa and brought to America. Eventually there was about 3,000 slaves just in New England and Virginia combined and most of them were working on large plantations doing the colonists hard labor. (Lanning 26) All slaves had a dream of being free but, how could they make that dream come true? There were many ways for slaves to become free but the risk that was involved in several of them was very high. One way of being freed was taking the huge risk of running away, another option for them was buying their freedom with money they earned from their master, if their master died they could be freed by their masters will, or they could be freed by manumission (the voluntary freeing by a master). (“Free African Americans in the Colonial Era” 1) After slaves were freed they had the ability to change the outcome of the Revolutionary War by being soldiers, working in the Navy and, being able to inspire the world with their poetry.

Research Highlights

  • In 1775 Lord Dunmore announced a proclamation to free slaves that joined the British fight
  • African Americans faced British troops, dug trenches, built bridges, and cleared trenches for troops.
  • Phillis Wheatley was taken away from her home in Africa at the age of 8 and was sold to the Wheatley family in Boston, Massachusetts
  • In 1773 Phillis's book of poems , Poems on Various Subjects and Religious Moral got published
  • In the Naval service African Americans could be ship cooks, carpenters, cannon workers, or pilots of the ships
  • Privateers were a haven for escaped slaves because they could sail away from the ownership of their master