A Black Patriot was an African American who sided with the colonists who opposed British rule during the American Revolutionary War. The term Black Patriots includes, but is not limited to, the 5000 or more African Americans who fought in the Continental Army during the war.
This was in contrast to Black Loyalists, African Americans who left rebel planters and joined British forces. Many families escaped to take up the British offer of freedom for service, making their way to British lines and territory for safety.
First Patriot martyr
Crispus Attucks is considered to be the first Black Patriot because he was killed in the Boston Massacre. Attucks was commemorated by his fellow Bostonians as a martyr for freedom. Of mixed Native American and African ancestry, he was a fugitive slave who had escaped in 1750 from a farm in Framingham, Massachusetts. His death in the Boston Massacre is considered to be the first Patriot fatality of the war.
Black Patriots who served in the State Militias
The Bucks of America were an all-Black, Massachusetts Militia company organized in 1775 in Boston. This was the name given to one of two all-black units fighting for independence. There is little known of the campaign history of the Bucks company, or if they ever saw combat. It appears that they operated mainly around Boston. The Bucks of America may have acted primarily as an auxiliary police or security service, in the city, during the war. They most likely did not see action against regular British soldiers.
Black Patriots who served in the Continental Army
After the British started recruiting African Americans to start serving or assisting the British cause on the promise of freedom, Americans began to recruit free blacks in New England and the East Coast to serve in the army. They were promised a life of luxury and mobility if they joined the war. The northerners were trying to escape the harsh treatment of blacks during the slavery era. By joining the war, they believed they were bettering the lives of African Americans all over.
Most of the time, Black Patriot soldiers served as individuals in a variety of predominantly white units of the Continental Army.
The 1st Rhode Island Regiment, also known as "Varnum's Continentals", was a Continental Army regiment from Rhode Island. It became well known as the "Black Regiment" because, for a time, it had several companies of African-American soldiers. It is regarded as the first African-American military regiment, although its ranks were not exclusively African American.
Captain David Humphreys' All Black, 2nd Company, of the Connecticut Continental Line, served from October 1780-November 1782. On November 27, 1780, Humphrey's Black Company was assigned to the 3rd Connecticut Regiment. On January 1, 1781, the Regiment was merged with the 4th Connecticut Regiment, re-organized into nine companies, and re-designated as the 1st Connecticut Regiment.
William "Billy" Lee was an enslaved valet of George Washington who served in the Continental Army and fought with the general's forces. Lee was considered to be Washington's favorite slave, and was often featured in the background of the general's portraits.
Famed African American, Harvard scholar and professor Henry Louis Gates is descended from John Redman, a Free Negro who served in the Continental Army. Gates is currently working on a project to find all descendants of Black Patriots, who served in the American Revolutionary Continental Army.
Proposed national memorial
The National Liberty Monument is a proposed national memorial to be located in the capital to honor the more than 5000 enslaved and free persons of African descent who served as soldiers or sailors, or provided civilian assistance during the American Revolutionary War. The memorial is an outgrowth of a failed effort to erect a Black Revolutionary War Patriots Memorial. This was authorized in 1986, but fundraising faltered and the memorial foundation dissolved in 2005.
Congress authorized the National Liberty Monument in January 2013. On September 8, 2014, the United States House of Representatives passed the joint resolution approving the location in the capital of a memorial to commemorate the more than 5,000 slaves and free Black people who fought for independence in the American Revolution. The joint resolution would approve the location of a commemorative work to honor the more than 5000 slaves and free black persons who fought in the American Revolution.
Notable Black Patriots
- Toby Gilmore
- Alexander Ames
- Crispus Attucks
- Charles Bowles
- Jeffrey Brace
- Joseph Brown
- Seymour Burr
- Wentworth Cheswell
- Titus Coburn
- Grant Cooper
- Paul Cuffee
- Austin Dabney
- James Armistead Lafayette
- Caesar Dickenson
- Charlestown Eaads
- James Easton
- Prince Estabrook
- William Flora
- Asaba Grosvenor
- Blaney Grusha
- Jude Hall
- Primus Hall
- Cuff Haynes
- Lemuel Haynes
- Henry Hill
- Cato Howe
- Agrippa Hull
- Jeremy Jonah
- Lambert Latham
- Cato Mead
- Jack Little
- Barzillai Lew
- Salem Poor
- James Robinson
- Silas Royal
- Peter Salem
- Prince Simbo
- Phillis Wheatley
- Bosson Wright
In popular culture
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- Guthrie, James M. Camp-fires of the Afro-American; Or, The Colored Man as a Patriot, Soldier, Sailor, and Hero, in the Cause of Free America, 1899
- Nell, William Cooper. The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, With Sketches of Several Distinguished Colored Persons: To Which Is Added a Brief Survey of the Condition And Prospects of Colored Americans. Boston: Robert F. Wallcut, 1855.
- Wilson, Joseph Thomas. The Black Phalanx: A History of the Negro Soldiers of the United States in the Wars of 1775-1812, 1861-'65, 1890
- White, Deborah; Bay, Mia; Martin Jr., Waldo E. (2013). Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans. Boston: Bedford St. Martin's. pp. 124–127.
- White (2013). Freedom on My Mind. p. 124.
- White (2013). Freedom on My Mind. pp. 149–150.
- Thomas O'Connor, The Hub, Northeastern University Press, p. 56.
- "THE FIRST RHODE ISLAND". AncientGreece-Early America. Archived from the original on 3 July 2007.
- White, Deborah Gray (2013). Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans. New York: Bedford/St.Martins. pp. 152–153.
- "H.J.Res. 120 - All Actions". United States Congress. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
- Marcos, Cristina (8 September 2014). "House authorizes location for American Revolution memorial in D.C." The Hill. Retrieved 9 September 2014.