Both enslaved and free African-Americans greeted the American revolution as a chance to either gain freedom or rise above living in poverty. Many of them believed that if they helped the British, they would be rewarded and helped in return. However, not all blacks who set out to join the army ended up working for the British, as some escaped and went to Canada or towards Indian land. Nevertheless, there were quite a few soldiers who joined the military, seduced by the promises of a better life.
Here are 6 important black soldiers who made a difference by serving in the military during times of war.
1. Boston King was an escaped slave from Charleston, South Carolina, who fought for the British. King was born in South Carolina, the son of a literate slave.
After surviving smallpox, Boston first joined the British near Charleston, and made his way to New York during the American Revolution, twice escaping capture. He is most remembered as one of the Nova Scotia settlers who migrated to Sierra Leone, where he found a school.
2. Cornel Tye was an escaped slave from Monmouth, New Jersey. Tye was born into slavery in Colt’s Neck, Monmouth County, New Jersey and was originally owned by John Corlies, a Quaker. Situated along the Navesink River, near the town of Shrewsbury, Titus worked tirelessly on Corlies’ farm until his escape from slavery. Tye fought for the British and became the most feared and respected guerilla commander of any race in the American revolution. Due to his actions, he inspired other slaves to leave their plantations and join the war.
3. Jeremiah Thomas was a free black man who owned a great deal of property in South Carolina. He conspired against the Continental Army and urged blacks to revolt against local whites by joining the British efforts to secure the Charleston Harbor. His plans about the insurrection were revealed, and he was hanged and burned in Charleston for allegedly plotting the revolt.
4. Prince Easterbrook fought in many major campaigns during the American Revolution. He was wounded at the battle at Lexington, however, he continued to fight until the war had ended. He was later freed from slavery for his services during the war.
5. James Forten is one of the most well-known soldiers. Forten served in the Continental Navy as a powder boy aboard a privateer. He invented a device for handling sails, which earned him a fortune.
Crispus Attucks was the first death of the Boston massacre and is widely considered to be the first American casualty in the American Revolutionary War. Attucks appears to have been born in Framingham, Massachusetts. He was of mixed race, African and Native American.