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American Revolution

African Americans

History >> American Revolution

When the American Revolution began, around twenty percent of the population of the thirteen colonies came from African descent. Most of these people were slaves, but some were freemen. African Americans played a major role in the Revolutionary War in different roles including patriots, soldiers, and even spies.

Were there any African American patriots?

Yes. Many African Americans took up the cause against the British and became patriots. They joined the local militias and some were members of the Sons of Liberty.

Portrait of Crispus Attucks
Crispus Attucks by Unknown
Perhaps the most famous African American patriot was Crispus Attucks. Crispus was leading a protest against taxes in the streets of Boston when he was killed by British soldiers in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Crispus was the first man killed at the Boston Massacre and his death is often considered the first casualty of the American Revolution.

Which side did African Americans fight for?

Just like the other colonists, different African Americans had different loyalties. Some fought for Britain while others fought on the side of the colonists.

The British Welcome African American Soldiers

Early on in the war, the Continental Army did not officially accept black soldiers. The British decided to take advantage of this and offered freedom to any black slaves or indentured servants who joined their army.

Were they allowed to join the Continental Army?

The Continental Army eventually started to accept free black soldiers in 1775. By 1776, slaves were accepted as well, usually with the promise of freedom when the war ended.

Did they fight in separate regiments?

For the most part, black soldiers and white soldiers were integrated during the Revolutionary War. The 1st Rhode Island Regiment, however, consisted of mostly black soldiers and was known as a black regiment.
Portrait of James Armistead
James Armistead
by John B. Martin


African American Patriots After the War

Most of the African American men who fought in the war did receive their freedom as promised. However, they soon found out that the "freedom and equality" they had fought for did not apply to African Americans. Slavery continued in the United States for over 80 years after the Revolutionary War ended.

Interesting Facts about African Americans During the Revolutionary War Activities Learn more about the Revolutionary War:

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History >> American Revolution

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February is
Black History Month

Learn more about the history of African-Americans at these links

African-American Biographies

African American
Civil Rights
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