Defenders of Liberty: African Americans in the Revolutionary War

Defenders of Liberty: African Americans in the Revolutionary War

by Michael Lee Lanning

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A thorough, long-overdue study of black Americans' contributions during the war of independence. Veteran military historian Lanning (The African-American Soldier: From Crispus Attucks to Colin Powell, 1997, etc.) notes that this was a difficult book to research because the victors' were not inclined to record the heroism of these invisible men who fought and fell alongside white patriots. Archival evidence is rare for a population kept illiterate, and the earliest attempt at such a history (in 1855) was an effort by its black author "to promote his race" and emancipation. Lanning fills in many unknown details about the defiant fugitive slave who instigated and was the first victim of the Boston Massacre, blacks who fought with the Minutemen at Lexington, and Battle of Bunker Hill hero Peter Salem, who was introduced to General Washington as "the man who shot [British commander] Pitcairn." Lanning identifies Salem as one of two black rebels painted by eyewitness John Trumbull, whose work hangs in the US Capitol rotunda. While many slaves, free men, and escapees enlisted, they were often relegated to noncombat roles or uncounted among those who fell on the battlefield. Many thousands of African-Americans, including sailors under John Paul Jones and some of the first marines, fought for a country that then took its time offering liberty to all. Some British loyalist units did promise freedom, and so an entire "Ethiopian Regiment" wore red coats. Bowing to pressure from southerners, Washington officially-opposed enlisting blacks, but Lanning documents that undermanned militias like Rhode Island's were the first to ignore this decree and "to recruit an all-black battalion." An importantpiece of American and African-American history, anticipating the Civil War and today's large minority presence in the military. (8 pages illustrations, not seen)

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6.23(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.98(d)

Meet the Author

Michael Lee Lanning retired from the army as a lieutenant colonel after more than twenty years' service. During his assignment to Vietnam, he served as both an infantry platoon leader and a company commander in the 199th Infantry Brigade (Light). He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.  

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