It is hard to pin on when slavery really started but it is known for the fact that it was practiced in the 18th as well as the 17th century. African were used as tools of free labor to help build a new nation into the visionary powerhouse that the Americans were targeting. A lot of work needed to be done such as the production of several crops such as cotton and tobacco. At the time, the Africans were treated as tools and not considered to be human beings. They lived in deplorable conditions and were transported to the United States with chains around them. The European Settlers saw Africans as the cheapest labor they could access. This worked for them when it came to maximizing on profits and minimizing on the expenses they had to counter. More than 7 million Africans were used as slaves in both centuries (Bradley, 2012). The main idea behind the slavery mission is to make the slaves totally dependent on the owners making it virtually impossible for them to seek liberation. All the tools that the slaves could have used to progress themselves were actively denied such as education and money. This paper explores slavery in America while paying close attention to its history and the American Revolution.
50 years after America defeated the British in the revolutionary war that took place in (1775-83) at Yorktown, the white people chose to selectively forget the contribution that the blacks had on the war (MacLeod, 1974). The Africans had played a role on both sides of the war and propelled America towards its independence. Even as the speech was given in Philadelphia to mark the Centennial Celebration of the Revolution no acknowledged their involvement as well as a contribution to the war. Most of the African Americans were active participants in the war with some winning back their freedom and others ending up as victims. The blacks could not be dismissed as just bystanders.
The year 1775 found more than 500, 000 blacks still enslave (Bradley, 2012). They were living in more than 13 different colonies. The 18th century saw many ministers from New England questioning how humane or moral slavery was. Those at the forefront were John Woolman and George Keith. The concerns went ignored by the majority. The 1760s saw the revolution against the British tyranny with most Americans noticing there was a contradiction in the claims of owning slaves and advocating liberty. Abigail made a claim stating that "It always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have," (Blumrosen & Blumrosen, 2006, p.56).
The spread of the talks of liberty ignited the blacks giving them new hopes of freedom from the long oppression that they had suffered. They were ignited to start their own movements towards a democratic revolution. In 1775 several black people rose up to put a fight against the British. This included some slaves but they were barely 20 in number (Schama, 2009). The good thing that came out of it was that two of the fighters were awarded for their bravery. However, in 1776, a sudden turn gave the realization that the revolution had nothing to do with the blacks enslavement (Bradley, 2012). There was independence that was officially declared but it failed to mention an end to slavery. The Continental Congress decided to exclude the blacks from the army despite the fact that they had proven themselves in battles in the past.
Despite the setbacks that the blacks had to endure, some of them did not give up. There were free blacks as well as the enslaved one who still chose to pursue arms against the British. They were located in New England. The United States began to find it next to impossible to enlist their quotas, therefore, had to turn back to the blacks in hopes of tapping the manpower. As time went by, the states changed their minds and opted to recruit the blacks as part of their military service and they got freedom in exchange. By the time the war came to an end, a whopping 8, 000 blacks had managed to serve in different capacities in the military either in the seas, in the lines, and the battlefields (MacLeod, 1974). By the time 1777 was reached, several states started advocating for people to release their slaves so that they would serve in the army. This was to be an exchange of the incentive of enlistment bounty; this was basically the use of the children of the slaves as substitutes. However, this was not welcomed in the South hence there were very few slaves that were enlisted in the military in that area.
The black soldiers that were recruited in the military service were redistributed through several departments of the Continental army and were heavily integrated into several regiments where they were perceived as support staff and given roles of cooks, artisans, wagon drivers, or waiters. There were also other black units that worked under the governance of white officers were created to fight against the British. The battalion that was established in the year 1778 in Rhode Island was, however, unable to meet its quota that was placed by the continental army (Bradley, 2012). The legislature at the time came to a conclusion of granting freedom to all the slaves who had volunteered for the duration of the war; this was however done through compensation of their owners at a value.
The southern states as stated earlier were very adamant to recruit the black slaves into military services, they had no objection on their end to hire those who had been granted their freedom as seamen and pilots for the war (Schama, 2009). In the state of Virginia, more than 100 men who were also slaves were given the opportunity to serve in the state navy. The legislation that came after the war also gave those who served in the military their freedom as well as a reward for the faithfulness. The blacks also served as sailors and gunners in the Continental Navy and also privateers during the revolution.
There are a lot of controversies regarding the black participation in the revolution. It can be pinned on several things but one thing is for sure that they were not hell-bent on supporting the American cause. The blacks had their own agendas and they wanted freedom. A lot of people were fighting against the British and black people just joined in the movement especially when they realized that it came with a lot of benefits for them. The blacks chose to make their own critical assessments of the conflict and supported the side that was inclined to benefit them more. This was the only opportunity that they had to escape the bondage they had been bound in for years. The British officials were the first to detect these motives hence their reason behind the legislation to ban the blacks from joining the military. They also made several comparisons to the blacks who aimed to join the war as a product of Ethiopia and also labeled them the runaway slaves. 800 or more slaves were enticed by Dunmore by the mere promise of freedom (Schama, 2009). Most of them viewed this as the only opportunity that they could escape the oppression and finally come out as the ultimate rebels towards their masters. The blacks led a movement that revolved around joining forces with Dunmore until the year of 1776 when he was finally forced to leave the state of Virginia (Bradley, 2012). Dunmore was usually met with a lot of criticism as well as disapproval from the rest of Britain given his strong pursuit towards African freedom but to the blacks, he was considered a once in a life hero. In the British eyes, he marked the start of liberation which did not sit well with them. The blacks wanted a life free from oppression and lucky for them the American Revolution was the first incident that represented the window of opportunity for all of them. The revolution gave birth to other movements because through it many of the slaves finally found out that freedom was indeed achievable. It gave empowerment to predeceasing leaders and movements that finally demanded equal rights such as the civil rights movements that were led by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X ((Schama, 2009). The revolution restored whatever dignity that the blacks had left.
Blumrosen, A., & Blumrosen, R. (2006). Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolution (Revised ed.). Sourcebooks.
Bradley, P. (2012). Slavery, Propaganda, and the American Revolution. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
MacLeod, D. J. (1974). Slavery, race, and the American revolution. London: Cambridge University Press.
Schama, S. (2009). Rough Crossings: The Slaves, the British, and the American Revolution. HarperCollins.
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