Rising Expectations (1763-1783)

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
Stamp Act
Tea Act
Boston Tea
& Concord
Jefferson, a slaveholder in a slave-holding country,
wrote the Declaration of Independence. This
document was not meant to promote universal
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
Or, were the radicals going to reject the
revolutionary ideals that this document was
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Newly freed blacks faced many difficulties,
including a lack of jobs and a lack of stability.