Being a Slave During the American Revolution

Today people are defined by their skin color, looks, sexuality, gender, and beliefs. In the late 1700s people were also defined and given a title, except they were given different titles than those today. Today someone would be defined as black, white, asian, hispanic, homosexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian, queer, lower class, middle class, upper class, and many more. In the late 1700s there were not so many options or titles to be labeled with. People in the 1700s were defined as loyalists, slaves, women, female politicians, and patriots. When looking around any time period, there are some events that occur to make people start to identify them as a certain title. For example, an event that took place during the late 1700s, was The American Revolution. The American Revolution was more than just a revolt that took place between 1765 and 1783. The American Revolution formed the identities of Americans and gave them the titles that are defined in history books today.

Being a slave during the American Revolution was hard and required a lot of mental and physical strength. Slaves were a big part of history and were owned by white men. They were defined as black people and considered less of a person than an animal. They were sold and

traded, beaten and whipped, and treated terribly. Slaves were not allowed to serve in the army, but blacks who were free could. During the Revolutionary War, some decided to fight for Americans but others decided to fight for the British. Some chose the British because they were offered freedom, which would have been greatly accepted. “Lord Dunmore issued a proclamation offering freedom to all slaves who would fight for the British during the Revolutionary War … other revolutionary leaders, however, were hesitant to utilize African Americans in their armed forces due to a fear that armed slaves would rise against them” (Boundless US History). Whites were the key to power and thought they had all control over slaves. For example “George Washington issued an order to recruiters in July 1775, ordering them not to enroll ‘any deserter from the Ministerial army, nor any stroller, negro or vagabond.’ This order, however, was eventually reneged when manpower shortages forced the Continental Army to diversify their ranks” (Boundless US History). A story of a man named Boyrereau Brinch was captured and brought to America as a slave. He joined the Patriot forces and was soon freed after the war (Andrews). Slaves made pretty a pretty big impact on the cause of American independence which is kind of ironic since they were ones who did not have independence themselves yet fought for Americas.

Women were responsible for taking care of their homes and taking care of their children. During the war, alot was expected of them and they had a lot on their hands. Even more than usual. They were required to make and sew articles of clothing for war and supply food along with nurse the wounded soldiers. In the primary source journal called Women in South Carolina Experience Occupation it states that during the war, their houses were raided and they were

treated pretty badly. A quote from the source states that “it was terrible to the last degree; and what augmented it, they had several armed negroes with them, who threatened and abused us greatly. They then began to plunder the house of everything they thought valuable or worth taking; our trunks were split to pieces, and each mean, pitiful wretch crammed his bosom with the contents” (Primary Source). Another source was written by Abigail Adams and it was a letter to John Adams. She wanted him to think of the women when creating new laws, but his response was he thought it to be a joke. In an article called Women and Politics in the Era of the American Revolution it states “granted, none of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence intended to relinquish their domestic authority, nor did they envision a world where women would be truly equal or independent” (Skemp).

After the war, many women felt as if they were of importance, not that they were not to begin with, but they had accomplished so much. They were even thanked for their sacrifices and everything they had done to contribute to the war. They ran businesses and took care of their families without the help of a husband. Though they were not considered citizens who were equal to men, they now and still had some political rights. Men actually ended up praising women for doing what they were doing and a few men “even admitted that there was no rationale for excluding property-owning women from the vote” (Skemp).

Loyalists were also another group of people that defined the American Revolution. Not every person living in this time period wanted to leave the British, many actually wanted to stay in Britain and stay a citizen. The people who fall under that category were considered Loyalists.

Out of the British people, it was pretty evenly split as to where they all went. Some stayed with Great Britain, some put themselves in with the cause for independence and some did their best to ignore what was going on. Some of the Loyalists had ties and had to stay because they were officials and defended the constitution but some just had local places and businesses so they chose to stay and not go against their people. Another reason they stated mutual and did not chose to go against them was due to fighting and blaming. In the American Yawp it states, “and upon their departures, severe fighting ensued between local patriots and loyalists, often pitting family members against one another” (American Yawp Chapter 5). A reason some may have not stayed as a Loyalist was due to the confiscation acts that were passed during the war. They allowed the governments to seize the land and properties of the Loyalists. To single out Loyalists, “revolutionary governments also passed laws requiring the male population to take oaths of allegiance to the new states. Those who refused lost their property and were often imprisoned or made to work for the new local revolutionary order” (OS Collection). Out of all Loyalists, a man that really was a Loyalist but soon was seen as a disgrace was a man who went by the name of Benedict Arnold.

Looking back, there were many different events that happened such as the fight for independence and who participated in it and people going against their own like Benedict Arnold. He was a military general who switched sides. He was in command of west point and tried to hand it over to the British. He started out by being trusted by Washington and let into his inner circle. He would meet up with a man named John Andre and give him information about the plans. He then attempted to deliver to west point but when Andre was caught, he handed

himself over to the British. He did a lot of good things for the time period, but since he committed treason and ended up on the losing side, everything he did went out the window. People smashed the gravestone of his brother and father in his hometown after all this happened (Notes 09/24). There is a reason all of the people were defined as they were, and the American Revolution helped find out why. Each and every group of people had an impact on the American Revolution such as slaves, Loyalists and women. If it was not for them then the American Revolution would not be what it is today.

All in all, every person is defined with a title given by society or an event that occurs around that time. Whether someone agrees to it or does not enjoy the title, it is still given. Throughout history every person has been labeled and further on in the future, people will still be labeled. Each time period has an event that will eventually or momentarily impact each and every person, it is just up to the society to define how. The American Revolution was an event in history that greatly defined and gave the titles and identities to the people, which have carried on throughout the years to identify our ancestors.