History.com profiles several black colonials who participated in the Revolutionary War, including Crispus Attucks, considered by many historians to be the first American to die in the war. He was a runaway slave of African and Native American descent in mid-life, killed by two British musket wounds to the chest.
Attucks’ status as a runaway slave illustrates our conflicted history. Some 5,000 to 8,000 people of African descent served in the war on the American side. Amid the Patriots’ rhetoric of equality and liberty, many of them hoped that independence would bring an end to slavery.
Some 20,000 African-Americans choose to serve the Crown. Historian Edward Ayres said, “They signed on with whichever side seemed most likely to grant them personal freedom.” On this Memorial Weekend, I salute the slaves and former slaves who served and trusted this fledgling democracy.
From “Give Me Liberty: African Americans in the Revolutionary War,” George Washington’s Mount Vernon
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What a fascinating piece of American history!