Between 1775 and 1783, an estimated 230,000 men served in the Continental Army with another approximately 145,000 men serving in state militia units.
But who were the men who served in these military ranks? What motivated them to take up arms and join the army? And what was their military experience like?
In this episode of the Doing History: To the Revolution series, we begin a 2-episode exploration of some of the military aspects of the American Revolution by exploring the experiences of the approximately 6,000-7,000 African American men who served in the Continental Army. Our guide for this exploration is Judith Van Buskirk, a professor of history at the State University of New York, Cortland and the author of Standing in Their Own Light: African American Patriots in the American Revolution.
About the Series
The mission of episodes in the Doing History: To the Revolution series. is to ask not just “what is the history of the American Revolution?” but “what are the histories of the American Revolution?”
The Doing History series explores early American history and how historians work. It’s produced by the Omohundro Institute.
Be sure to check out Doing History season 1, Doing History: How Historians Work.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.
Judith Van Buskirk, a professor of history at the State University of New York, Cortland and the author of Standing in Their Own Light: African American Patriots in the American Revolution, helps us kick-off a two-episode exploration of the military aspects of the American Revolution by guiding us through the military experiences of the approximately 6,000-7,000 African American men who served in the Continental Army.
During our investigation, Judy reveals what motivated African American men to join the revolutionaries’ military units; The Continental Army’s policy toward African American soldiers; And details about both the all-black First Rhode Island Regiment and John Lauren’s attempt to form a similar all-black regiment from South Carolina.
What You’ll Discover
- African American participation in the War for Independence
- Revolutionary War pensions and pension records
- Why African Americans served in the revolutionaries’ cause
- Continental Army policy regarding African American soldiers
- The experience of African American Continental soldiers
- The First Rhode Island Continental Regiment
- John Laurens and the attempt to form a black regiment from South Carolina
- Life for African American veterans after the War for Independence
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Judith Van Buskirk
- Standing in Their Own Light: African American Patriots in the American Revolution
- Generous Enemies: Patriots and Loyalists in Revolutionary New York
- John Resch, Suffering Soldiers: Revolutionary War Veterans, Moral Sentiment, and Political Culture in the Early Republic
- Richard Ketchum, Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War
- Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America
- David Library of the American Revolution
- Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Omohundro Institute
- William and Mary Quarterly
- OI Reader App
- William and Mary Quarterly-Journal of the Early Republic joint issue on the American Revolution special discount
- Episode 016: Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy
- Episode 118: Christy Clark-Pujara, The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island
- Episode 123: Revolutionary Allegiances
- Episode 126: Rebecca Brannon, The Reintegration of American Loyalists
- Episode 137: Erica Dunbar, The Washington’s Runaway Slave, Ona Judge
- Episode 153: Committees and Congress: Governments of the American Revolution
In your opinion, what might have happened if John Laurens had been successful in forming his black regiment in South Carolina? How would the creation of such a unit have impacted the war and southern society’s ideas about African Americans?
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