The Revolutionary War was a pivotal moment in world history. When the American colonies decided to fight for independence from Britain, people weren’t sure how the upcoming war would end.
Many patriots fought to put an end to England’s rule over their lives and those of their countrymen. The struggle for freedom was not only fought by the descendants of those who traveled to America on the Mayflower, however. The battle was also joined by those who yearned to be free but 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 there were no guarantees that service would bring about their freedom.
Who Were the Black Patriots?
There were thousands of black soldiers who distinguished themselves 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 5, 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 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
Unfortunately, the work of the Black Patriots did not lead to freedom for many of those who served. Some were freed immediately, but others had to wait for the northern colonies to pass laws making slavery illegal.
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, which meant they were able to oppose 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.