The American Revolution and Blacks
In Black Americans in the Revolutionary Era, Woody Holton gives us a fresh look at liberty and freedom in the Revolutionary era from the perspective of Black Americans. Woody Holton (Ph.D., Duke University) is an associate professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, where he teaches classes on African Americans, Native America, the origins of the Constitution, and the era of the American Revolution. The American Revolution was not only the colonies fight to gain independence but the African-Americans largest slave revolt. There was a contradiction in the whites wanting to gain liberation from England while enslaving blacks at the same time. This contradiction has its roots in the white concept of liberation as opposed to that of the blacks. To white Americans the war meant freedom and liberty in a political-economical sense rather than in the sense of personal bondage the blacks suffered from. The white fight for freedom gave the blacks the great opportunity to cast their own bid for freedom. They increased the number of freedom suits and petitions to the state legislatures. Individual slaves could bring up their own freedom suits but in order to free many slaves at once they had to get together and form a petition. The inconsistency between the ideals of the Revolution and the institution of slavery fueled the black movement for freedom. However the blacks made their greatest bid for freedom by taking up arms. They took up arms fighting for the British early in the Revolution. The British offered blacks their freedom in return for their aid in fighting the Americans. Blacks took up the offer not because they were fighting for the British but because they were fighting for their freedom. The Americans also opened up their ranks to African-Americans. However, they did not offer the chance for blacks to join the army until 1777, well into the Revolution, when they were desperate for more forces. The...
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