The Revolutionary War changed the course of history in many ways. When the American colonies decided to fight for independence from Britain, people weren’t sure how the upcoming war would end.
Many of those who fought for America’s freedom from the English crown were still kept in the chains of slavery. These individuals were the Black Patriots, slaves who chose to fight against the British military to protect America even though they might remain slaves after the war.
Who Were the Black Patriots?
There were thousands of black soldiers in the Revolutionary War. The very first American to be killed by the British Army was a man named Crispus Attucks, an escaped slave who ran away from his master in Farmingham, Massachusetts. He was also a member of the abolitionist movement, which sought to free every slave in the land. On March 5th, 1770, a group of colonists, including Attucks, was present when an argument broke out between Americans and British soldiers. The colonists threw snowballs and other items at the soldiers, who responded by firing their rifles at the crowd. Attucks was the first person struck down by the bullets.
Other Black Patriots became famous during and after the war. Joseph Brown, a slave who had earned his freedom for fighting with the Continental Army against the British, later opened a restaurant called Black Joe’s Tavern. It was an establishment that served both white and black customers. Brown’s wife invented a well-known pastry called “Joe Froggers,” a type of cookie that resembles a pancake.
William Flora was another black soldier who stood out during the war. He served in the Virginia State Forces and participated in the Battle of Great Bridge. In December 1775, British forces attacked members of the Continental Army as they attempted to retreat across the bridge. As Flora’s regiment retreated, he ripped up a plank of wood from the bridge, creating a barrier that made it difficult for the British troops to cross as the colonists fired on them. His bravery forced England’s troops to turn around and likely saved lives.
The Beginnings of Freedom
Due to the actions of the Black Patriots, the United States no longer allowed slavery in all of its colonies. This resulted in the northern states being free, and in opposition to the enslavement of black Americans in the south. While the eventual freeing of all slaves did not occur until 1865, the stage was set during the Revolutionary War.