The Black Pioneers were an African American regiment established in May 1776 out of Lord Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment. Famous American slaves such as Thomas Peters were Black Pioneers. Their motto, which was embroidered on their uniforms, was "Liberty to Slaves."
During the American Revolution, the Black Pioneers would "Assist in Cleaning the Streets & Removing all Nuisances being thrown into the Streets." The Black Pioneers followed British troops under the command of Henry Clinton as they moved from New York to Philadelphia to Charleston, and, after the fall of Charleston, back to New York again.
The Black Pioneers were commanded for a time by Major James Moncrief of the Royal Engineers. Moncrief had great faith in the ability of African-American slaves to fight. In a letter to Clinton at the close of the war he offered to continue the war with a brigade of African American troops. he also advocated for their freedom in light of their service to the British Army.
One recruit was the former slave of General George Washington. After Lord Dumore's proclamation of freedom to any slave that helped the British Army, Henry Washington ran away from the Washington plantation to join the Black Pioneers in 1776. After the Black Pioneers arrived in New York in 1783 many former slaves escaped from the harbor in fear of being repossessed by their former masters. It is still unknown how many former slaves escaped from New York during this period, although it is known that after the evacuation of the British approximately 15,000 African Americans were involved.
- Goodbye, Columbus When America won its independence, what became of the slaves who fled for theirs? Lepore, Jill
- Lepore, Jill