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The Negro in the American Revolution (Institute of Early American History) Hardcover – June, 1961
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He has done impressive and thorough research.
"American Historical Review" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Quarles sheds some light on a shadowy and esoteric corner of the history of the Revolution. . . . He has done impressive and thorough research.--American Historical Review
One of the major virtues of Quarles's book is that it does not confine itself merely to [its] principal theme of Negroes as revolutionaries, but deals also with the Negroes who served with the British (mostly as laborers and a few as spies) and with those who were 'carried off' at the end of the war.--New England Quarterly
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Nash believes that Quarles' book was among the first to tell the truth about the role of Blacks in the American Revolution. Previous books usually concentrated on the Patriotic Blacks, those who fought on the American side against the British. There were about 5,000 Patriotic Blacks used in various capacities by the revolutionary forces.
There is just one little problem.
The number of Blacks working for the British was 100,000.
I'm pretty well read, and I had no idea until a few years ago, when I read a book about the Sierra Leone settlement. But even then, I didn't realize the sheer magnitude of it. The British were no abolitionists, but they realized that a victorious war against the colonies called for unorthodox measures. By promising Black slaves owned by Rebel masters their freedom, the British excited a mass exodus of Blacks in the South to the British lines. Even some of Jefferson's and Washington's slaves absconded. A few of the freed Blacks were armed and saw combat, but most were employed as pilots onboard ships, scouts, drummers or manual labourers. Apart from the freed Blacks, there were also thousands of still enslaved Blacks behind the British lines. These were owned by Loyalists.
The fate of the "Loyalist" Blacks was varied. The slaves were shipped to the West Indies and often re-sold. Even a few free Blacks ended up being slaves in Jamaica. Most of the free Blacks moved to Canada, and were eventually resettled in Sierra Leone in West Africa. The capital of that nation is still called Freetown.
The American Revolution is virtually always portrayed as a glorious event and as the opening shot in the battle for liberty. Perhaps it was - for the Whites. Blacks saw things differently. The Southern states didn't abolish slavery. The Northern states eventually did, but there, the number of Blacks was smaller, and slavery seems to have been abolished mostly because White skilled workers saw the slaves as dangerous competitors.
The British didn't abolish slavery until long after the war in America, but at least they promised freedom to the Blacks in the thirteen colonies. Small wonder most of them absconded to enemy territory, rather than continuing being slaves under Washington, Adams or Jefferson.
The really interesting question, of course, is what this tells us about the American Revolution. At least from a Black perspective, Britain and the United States were birds of a feather. Obviously, however, the Blacks preferred the empire that was willing to grant them freedom.
And that empire was...Britain.
Small wonder this has been covered up for so long!