Slaves Lives during the War: Revolutionary War

Although the Revolutionary War was a war fought to bring independence to the United States from Britain it was not perceived as such for many of the African American slaves. Our country had become reliant on their labor primarily for the production of tobacco and rice. The south, more than the north, needed this labor which helps in explaining why the North had began freeing slaves in 1773; two years before the start of the Revolutionary War.

When the war broke out, freed slaves were permitted to join in the fight. The choice of which fighting force to join laid solely on who promised them the freedom they so desperately yearned for. The British Militia promised slaves personal liberty which was not promised by the Continental Army. Due to this promise, more slaves fought for Britain than America. However, this choice was taken away in 1775 when Washington barred the further recruitment of blacks. Despite what Washington said, a man by the name of Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia, promised freedom to any slave owned by patriot master who would join the loyalist force. Through this promise came the enlistment of approximately 800 slaves. Due to the lack of participation of many southern states the largest number of African American recruits came from the north. Maryland was the only southern state that legally permitted black slaves to enlist. In 1777 through 1778, Washington began to recognize that disease and desertion were taking the lives of a substantial amount of soldiers. This realization convinced him to approve plans for Rhode Island to raise a regiment of free black slaves.

Despite the aid that African American slaves provided, the threat of arming slaves still proved more threatening to a number of white society members than British redcoats. It was this way of thinking that led to many slaved being captured by Southern Loyalists and returned back into slavery. This time was very much a time of confusion for slaves and slave owners alike. The amount of people who believed in freeing the slaves was growing but was still met with the large number of people who supported slavery. external image blk2.jpg
It would be easy to think that there was a reason for African American slaves to be content with their lives and not desire the freedom that the white man had. African American slaves wanted the freedom to gain all of the advantages of society, self-government, eligibility to office and the acceptance that they were not an inferior people. They were not content with their life of having to live under the control of a master. There was often a working relationship between slave and slaveholder that created a functional and successful economic environment, but that was not enough to make them content. Even with this relationship there was always the desire for having the ability to be a free person. The African American slave wanted to be able to practice their religion and beliefs they carried with the pride from Africa as a free American. The African American slave was always in search of freedom, whether in the context of everyday speech and action or through secret means of resistence. Rebellions and noncompliance were a way that the slaves showed their unrest. This action was usually met with harsh treatment and examples being made of the individuals that were caught. Some slaves took their chances and ran away from their masters but many never truly found their freedom. With the abolitionist movement there was hope that slavery would end and the protest would be heard. Universal human rights would give the African American slave what they wanted and they would have that what every human deserves equal rights. For African Americans, the end of slavery would bring hope for unparalleled control of their own lives and economic prospects. It has always been an American individual’s quest for freedom and for a life based on "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

The Revolutionary War ended up being a stepping stone towards the freedom of slaves. The complete freedom would take nearly another 200 years. However, a small number of states had changed their minds. New England was one to completely ban slavery whereas New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania adopted policies of gradual emancipation. Although these states put such laws into practice, black slaves were still met with discrimination in regards to employment, housing and education.

Works Cited
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