African Americans and the American Revolution

Wednesday, October 9, 2013
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


Alan Taylor
Distinguished Professor
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History
University of California, Davis
National Humanities Center Fellow

About the Seminar

In 1775 the royal governor of Virginia offered to free all the slaves in his colony who joined the British army and fought against the American rebels. Few slaves took him up on his offer. What can we make of that fact? Did the enslaved want to fight for their freedom but simply found it too difficult or too dangerous to escape to British camps? Or did slaves in Virginia and perhaps elsewhere side with the Patriots in the hope that the Revolution’s promise of liberty and equality applied to them? What role did African Americans play in the American Revolution? And how did the Revolution, a war fought to end the colonies’ “enslavement” by Great Britain, force American to confront slavery in their midst? Using resources from the Library from Congress’s American Memory Timeline and the National Humanities Center’s teaching anthologies, this seminar will address these and other questions.

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Assigned Readings

    From the American Memory Timeline from the Library of Congress: Revolutionary War: The Home Front.

    1. British Invasion of New York Encourages Loyalists and Indians, July 4, 1776
    2. The Continental Congress Deals with the "Savages," 1776-1778
    3. Two Continental Congress Addresses to the Six Nations, 1776-1777
    4. Tories Spread Falsehoods in Canada, February 1776
    5. Continental Congress Resolutions Concerning Loyalists, 1776
    6. Loyalists in Delaware and Maryland, 1777
    7. Reverend Jacob Duche to George Washington, October 8, 1777
    8. An Address of the Congress to the Inhabitants of the United States of America, May 8, 1778
    9. To the Inhabitants of the United States of America, May 16, 1779
    10. Proclamation by Brigadier-General Benedict Arnold, October 20, 1780
    11. A Loyalist Tract, November 28, [1781?]
    12. George Washington to John Laurens, January 15, 1781
    13. "Exhortations to Renewed Vigor," 1780-1781
    14. Recruiting African Americans into the Continental Army
    15. Alexander Scammel's Report on Negroes in the Continental Army, August 24, 1778

    From the National Humanities Center's primary source collection Making the Revolution, America: 1763-1791.

    1. “The Royal Proclamation, October 7, 1763.”
    2. “Messages between the Western Indian Confederacy and the U.S. Commissioners.” NOTE and TEXT.
    3. “Petition 1/13/1777.” NOTE and TEXT.
    4. “Proclamation of the Earl of Dunmore.” NOTE and TEXT.
    5. “Boston King’s Memories of the Evacuation from New York.” NOTE and TEXT.
    6. “Cato’s Letter and Petition to the Pennsylvania Assembly.” NOTE and TEXT.
    7. “Washington’s Letter to Robert Morris.” NOTE and TEXT.
    8. “Proslavery Petitions in Virginia.” NOTE and TEXT.