African Americans and the Struggle for Independence The struggle between the British and French empires over the Ohio River Valley and its fur trade resulted in the Seven Years War (or French and Indian War). Britain forced France to withdraw from North America, took Canada as well as Spanish Florida (in exchange for the Province of Louisiana and New Orleans). Two consequences came out of this war: 1) Native Americans could no longer resist the approach of white settlers. 2) Fugitive slaves in Florida lost their Spanish protection. Without the threat of the Spanish and French at their borders, the settlers ties with Britain weakend. Following the war, the British decided to tax the colonies for their share of the empire, as well as regulating the trade more closely. This led to a chain of acts and colonial reactions that sent the colonies plummeting headlong into an inevitable war against Britain. Sugar Act 1764 Stamp Act 1765 Townshend Act 1767 Boston Massacre 1770 Tea Act 1773 Boston Tea Party 1773 Lexington & Concord 1775 Jefferson, a slaveholder in a slave-holding country, wrote the Declaration of Independence. This document was not meant to promote universal equality. African Americans heard these words and asserted that this must apply to them as well. Was the Declaration to be understood literally and radically change American society? Or, were the radicals going to reject the revolutionary ideals that this document was establishing? The European Enlightenment laid the foundation of ideals that colonists would use to argue their independence from Britain. John Locke’s utilized the mathematical laws argued by Isaac Newton, to explain that society ran by natural laws and we all shared natural rights to life, liberty and personal property. He also stated that if a government fails to protect these natural rights, the citizens can overthrow the government. Some irony can be found in the claims that the colonies are “slaves” to Britain. Along with Locke’s idea of tabula rasa, or blank slate, black liberty began to be defended by the very ideals colonists were using to argue for their own independence. The greatest hope of African Americans was that the radical Patriots would realize that their revolutionary principles were incompatible with slavery. “How is that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the slave drivers?” (p81) Slaves in the south marched and chanted “liberty,” and many escaped to freedom. In the north, slaves began making formal arguments for their freedom in courts. They used the principle of universal liberty to argue their case. The radical leaders taught the African Americans the revolutionary rhetoric, and they used this to petition for their freedom. Blacks also took part in protesting the Stamp Act, rioting after the Boston Massacre, and fighting along side the minutemen. The Enlightenment shaped the careers of the first black intellectuals through the publication of science and literature in pamphlets and newspapers. Benjamin Banneker and Phillis Wheatley were directly influenced and became the most famous black intellectuals of their time. Phillis Wheatley came to Boston in 1761 and became the servant of a wealthy merchants wife. She quickly learned how to read and write, as well as studied Latin. She also took on the Christian religion and wrote poetry. Wheatley’s poetry became published into the first book written by an African American women (2nd by any women). She was an advocate and symbol of adopting white culture, but she did not mimic her masters who were Loyalists. She herself became an ardent Patriot. Her poems would support the Patriot cause. How did Phillis Wheatley raise the issues brought forth by Locke in his tabula rasa argument? The two arguments made at this time were: Blacks were inherently inferior to whites intellectual (born less intelligent) The perceived black inferiority was a product of enslavement. Phillis Wheatley was an example for the latter argument of what an African American was capable of if freed from oppression. Banneker was born free in Maryland in 1731 and died in 1806. He was of mixed race and enjoyed some privileges this afforded. Inheriting a farm and going to a racially integrated school allowed for him to study literature and science. He also had access to his white neighbors library which allowed for him to study other languages. He became the 1st black civilian employee when he was hired as a member of the survey commission for Washington D.C. and he published his findings in an almanac. Banneker personally challenged Thomas Jefferson’s claims that blacks were inherently inferior through a correspondence with him. In the Revolutionary War, African Americans joined the side they offered them freedom. In the South, Britain promised freedom which led to several black Loyalists. In the North, white Patriots commitment to human liberty led to blacks joining their cause. What did Washington do when organizing his Continental Army in 1776 and why? He forbade the enlistment or reenlistment of black troops. He was returning to the traditional belief that blacks should not be in the army since this could led to runaway slaves as well as arming the blacks. At the same time, many whites believed that blacks were too cowardly to be good soldiers. British took the initiative in recruiting African Americans to fight on their side. Most were used as laborers and foragers, yet some would fight on the frontlines. Lord Dunmore in Virginia issued a proclamation promising to liberate any slaves who fought in the British army. Although this was a desperate move at first, he soon became the biggest advocate of their fighting ability. This served as a psychological blow against the Patriots, especially since these slaves had the motto, “Liberty to Slaves” on their uniforms. Thousands of escaped slaves joined the ranks of the British and Loyalists, especially with the promise of freedom. Dunmore’s use of black soldiers prompted Washington to reconsider his ban on the use of them in the army. African Americans fought on the Patriot side from the beginning to the conclusion of the Revolutionary War. Many blacks argued that they would fight only if assured freedom, and once agreed upon many changed their surname to reflect this cause. Peter Freedom and Sharp Liberty was an example of this. Prince Whipple and Oliver Cromwell were two famous soldiers that crossed the Delaware with Washington. And many other famous battles featured thousands of black soldiers. By the 1770’s, legislatures began discussing emancipation in the north. This was due to several causes. 1) Petitions and lawsuits initiated by black people in the northern states. 2) The emerging market economy. 3) The Great Awakening. 4) The ideals of the Enlightenment. These economic, religious, and intellectual changes convinced many that slavery should be abolished. This emancipation movement emerged from the Society of Friends, the Quaker movement. Antislavery societies used the black service in the war against Britain and the religious and economic progress of the northern African Americans to push emancipation. By 1784, all northern states (except New York and New Jersey) had started to gradually or immediately emancipate all slaves in their borders. In the South, slavery had taken a major blow due to the 100,000 escapes. 20,000 black people left with the British as well. Also, slaves in the South saw a change in the way they were treated and many were given more free time and learned trades, and some were given contracts much like indentured servants The fight for freedom was not only a white struggle. Blacks joined both sides in a hope to attain personal freedom. The movements of the time impacted the need for emancipation, particularly in the north. Following the Revolution, a large number of freed blacks emerged and many found themselves in difficult positions. HW: 1pg Active Notes on pgs. 97-109 The largest portion of newly freed blacks resided in the Chesapeake region. South Carolina and Georgia had a different look, with few freed blacks and a large portion of slaves. Freed blacks tended to be mixed children of the masters. Most free blacks moved to cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Richmond. Newly freed blacks faced many difficulties, including a lack of jobs and a lack of stability.