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Revolutionary Citizens: African Americans 1776-1804
     

Revolutionary Citizens: African Americans 1776-1804

by Daniel C. Littlefield
 

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It is not entirely clear who provoked the British musket fire at the Custom House in Boston on March 5, 1770, but the volley wounded eight men and killed five. Crispus Attucks, a tall, young mulatto, was one of the men who died in the confrontation. He would later become a revolutionary hero, celebrated as "the first to defy, and the first to die" in the cause of

Overview

It is not entirely clear who provoked the British musket fire at the Custom House in Boston on March 5, 1770, but the volley wounded eight men and killed five. Crispus Attucks, a tall, young mulatto, was one of the men who died in the confrontation. He would later become a revolutionary hero, celebrated as "the first to defy, and the first to die" in the cause of colonial liberty that went down in history as the Boston Massacre. When the American Revolution broke out six years later, African Americans like Crispus Attucks were among the first to rally to Patriot banners. As they fought to free their country, they also fought to free themselves from slavery. This nation's fight for independence from Great Britain laid bare the contradictions between slavery and freedom for African Americans. It was a contradiction many resolved to settle. Some joined with other colonists in striking direct blows for liberty. Others, meanwhile, heard the pleas for loyalty to the British crown, and with the promise of emancipation as their reward, remained faithful to the old order only to see it vanish before them. But whether in the poems of Phillis Wheatley, the legal action of Quok Walker, or the efforts of businessman Paul Cuffe, Americans of African descent helped define what it meant to be revolutionary citizens. By 1804, however, slavery seized a new lease on life. "King Cotton" demanded black slaves and produced a generation born into servitude. Unlike their immigrant forefathers, these African Americans had no memory of a homeland and depended upon stories handed down around fireplaces, campfires, and bedsides for their knowledge of their ancestors. They might hear of people who had fought with the British, or against them, or of people who had gone overseas or run away and formed communities of their own. Unfortunately, they would have few opportunities for such heroics in the 19th century. In Revolutionary Citizens, author Daniel C. Littlefield brings to life African-American heroes and heroines who both shaped and were shaped by the times in which they lived. From their embrace of religion to the formation of independent institutions such as the Free African Union Society, African Americans inserted themselves into the social and cultural life of the country. Ever aware of the implication of freedom, they spread word of their own efforts throughout the Americas.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Florence Munat
Freund and McQuirter's supplemental volume is a compilation of biographies of some of the African Americans whose lives and contributions are discussed in the ten volumes of the Young Oxford History of African Americans, Let My People Go: African Americans, 1804-1860 (VOYA August 1996), First Passage: Blacks in the Americas (VOYA June 1995), Into the Fire: African Americans Since 1970 (VOYA June 1996), and Revolutionary Citizens: African Americans, 1776-1804 (see below). The biographical section is more than one hundred pages, with each entry running one-half to one page in length. There are no photographs or illustrations of the subjects, but each biography is followed by the subject's publications and books about him or her for further reading. Individuals are from all U. S. historical periods and include Sojourner Truth, Bill Cosby, Andrew Young, Stokely Carmichael, Denmark Vesey, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Marcus Garvey, Phillis Wheatley, Harriet Tubman, Louis Farrakhan, Frederick Douglass, Toni Morrison, and Joe Louis. Another section contains a seventeen-page, state-by-state listing of museums and historic sites related the history of African Americans. This book contains the index for the entire series, but it can stand on its own as a biographical reference of the lives of black Americans. Keep in mind that its biographical coverage is limited though; it even omits several people mentioned in the series' ten volumes. Revolutionary Citizens emphasizes the active roles African Americans played in moving the country toward the abolishment of slavery. Progress was slow, but many were determined-from poet Phillis Wheatley to Boston Massacre victim Crispus Attucks to African Methodist Episcopal church founder Richard Allen to Washington, D. C., surveyor Benjamin Banneker to businessman Paul Cuffe. All influenced the way white Americans thought about black Americans. Although leaders of both races often embraced the Revolutionary War principle of "All men are created equal," this ideal was not put into practice when it came to slavery. Abolition was slow in coming to both the North and the South. So while many blacks volunteered to serve in the American Army during the Revolution, even greater numbers enlisted in the British Army in the hopes that a British victory would mean the abolishment of slavery. After America won its independence, many of these blacks immigrated to England. Later, some settled the new colony of Sierra Leone. Also described in some detail are the Return to Africa movement, the rise of Evangelical Protestantism and its role in the abolition movement, the development of African-American churches, the successful slave rebellion in Saint Domingue, led by Toussaint Louverture, and England's continued economic dependence on slavery-even though the British generally admitted slavery was immoral-for their successful trade in the Caribbean. The volume's writing style is scholarly and the concepts covered are difficult to grasp. The use of subheadings to divide the dense text would have helped readability. The book has obvious historical value, but it will only be accessible to sophisticated researchers. Index. Illus. Further Reading. Chronology. Note: This review was written and published to address two titles: Young Oxford History of African Americans, Volume 11: Biographical Supplement and Index and Young Oxford History of African Americans, Volume 3: Revolutionary Citizens: African Americans, 1776-1804. VOYA Codes: 4Q 2P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 7 UpTwo titles that add to the slowly expanding body of literature on African-American history for young people. In Revolutionary Citizens, Littlefield explores the role of African Americans immediately before, during, and after the war of 1776. He looks at the attempts of ex-slaves and free blacks to abolish slavery and to gain their citizenship rights. The book concludes with an account of the ways in which the revolutionary spirit, begun in America, spread to France and ultimately influenced blacks in Haiti to rebel against the ruling French. Though Justice Sleeps treats the period from 1880 to 1900 in this country and gives a detailed account of how blacks coped with racism; terrorism; and the gradual stripping away of hard-won economic, political, and social gains. Illustrations are copious, consisting of period photographs, documents, and drawings. Both titles are related in simple but effective prose. Excellent additions to American history collections.Carol Jones Collins, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ
From the Publisher
"Explores the role of African Americans immediately before, during, and after the war of 1776."—School Library Journal

"Emphasizes the active roles African Americans played in moving the country toward the abolishment of slavery."—VOYA

"Good resources on American history from the African American perspective; these books will help fill a gap in many collections."—Booklist

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780190282226
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
04/03/1997
Series:
Young Oxford History of African Americans Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
17 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign

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