From School Library Journal
Grade 5–8—In 1775, when British loyalist Lord Dunmore of Virginia issued a proclamation promising that escaped slaves who agreed to fight for the British could earn their freedom, hundreds of desperate men, women, and children answered the call. Riveting portrayals of famous battles and harrowing sea adventures, along with stories of slaves' ingenuity, the crucial part they played on both sides of the war, their fight to be compensated as they were promised, and, most importantly, their valiant efforts to seize their freedom highlight this little-known chapter of American history. Historical documentation such as certificates of freedom, emancipation proclamations, and reproductions of 18th-century oil paintings and drawings appear throughout. Personal quotes and anecdotes help to reveal the slaves' resolve and hopefulness and explain the difficult choices they made in regard to which side to ally themselves.—Margaret Auguste, Franklin Middle School, Somerset, NJ
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*Starred Review* In too many American history books for young people, the role of African Americans in the Revolutionary War begins and ends with Crispus Attucks at the Boston Massacre. Blair provides a well-researched account of slaves in Virginia who, beginning in 1775, fled to the British. The royal governor of the colony hoped to put down the rebellion in part by offering freedom to slaves of rebels (but not of loyalists) who would flee their masters and fight for the British side. Foraging, fighting, spying, and working as laborers, they risked their lives for liberty, and many of them died. At the war’s end, the British transported some 3,000 former slaves to Nova Scotia, and later sent nearly half of those to a new settlement in Sierra Leone. Though told in a matter-of-fact tone, the story is often heart-wrenching: the slaves, offered freedom for strategic rather than moral reasons, died in great numbers, and those who survived were promised benefits that never fully materialized. Colorful reproductions of period paintings, prints, and documents illustrate the clearly written text. Back matter includes a time line, source notes, and lists of recommended books, places to visit, and Web sites. A fine and singular addition to American history collections. Grades 5-8. --Carolyn Phelan