The Revolutionary War or the American Civil War is not only presented as a war fought for liberty from white colonialists, but it was also viewed in a different perspective as a means and an opportunity for the freedom of African American from the chains of slavery that had bonded them for so long suppressing their fundamental rights and freedom. Historical records reveal that over one-fifth of the American population back in the year 1776 was enslaved, this included up to 500,000 black men, women and children also. Therefore it comes as no shock that the initiative of the American Revolutionary War was viewed as a supreme chance to gain the liberty that they desperately desired and in order to achieve that over 5,000 African American soldiers served in the American Continental Army while more than 20,000 supported the British cause. (Wood, 2002)
Slavery as the Strategy for the Revolutionary War
Out of the many reasons that sparked the Revolutionary War, slavery was also one of the prime reasons that led to the Revolutionary War. Prior to independence slaves who were primarily African-American in terms of origin were inflicted to innumerable hardships, toils and troubles. They were deprived from their fundamental rights and were discordantly persecuted at the hands of their white owners. It was during the time when the uprising for the Revolutionary war began to gain momentum that many states and colonies began to formulate and introduce reforms condemning slavery and its subsequent disadvantages for the formation of a humanitarian pedestal of a future state.
These policies were used as a means of gaining support from the African-American population so that they can ally their loyalty and commitment either with the British forces or the patriots. Furthermore, even the vast slave population of America began to realize that time to raise the slavery and fight for liberty has arrived and for all of them the aggravating scenario and the crumbling political and administrative control was the chance they wanted to extract maximum advantage from. It was during this time that African-American population began to rise for their rights and launched anti slavery movements, the first of such movements took place in the year 1773 and began to gain tremendous impetus with the passage of time. In an extension to this initiative similar movement was launched in Rhode Island’s which was led by Samuel Hopkins. (Frasset, N/A)
He played an instrumental role in the elimination of slavery from the American society by making effective use of his position as a minister at the First Congregational Church of Newport to acquaint people about the adverse repercussions of slavery and coerced them to abandon such activities immediately. In addition to that he began a door-to-door service of encouraging and disseminating messages condemning and debunking the ruthless and inhuman activity of slavery. With the passage of time as the movement initiated by Hopkins began to gain pace, it proliferated and engulfed other states such as Virginia and Massachusetts where people did began to understand the importance of the liberty that is their divine right and that they now need to rise and demonstrate a spirit of unification for its acquisition. It was during the course of this entire movement that the African-American population became immensely serious about their freedom which they could achieve once slavery was abolished.
Another tactic implied by African-American people who further enhanced their significance during the Revolutionary war was that they realized their importance in terms of numbers. They realized that in an environment where the political and social institutional framework of the American society was on the brink of a massive change through a volatile means, their number and consequent interest will be of special consideration at both ends and making effectual use of this strategy, they forwarded their demand of independence either by aligning their loyalty with the Patriots or the British Army. (Foner, 1976)
Both groups working antagonistically, required their assistance as the inclusion of African-American faction would mean a remarkable increase in the number of soldiers that could participate in the war. Hence many British as well as American people began to devise counter strategies in order to gain the support and allegiance from the slave population. Many of the African-American slave population who took part in the Revolutionary war were mainly for their desire of adventure, belief in justice and in the possibility of receiving a bounty towards the end of the war. Even before the war took place many people from the African-American group advocated the anti-British cause and announced their vote of confidence for the independence of colonially held America.
This pro-American feeling germinated strongly after the brutal killing of Crispus Attucks in the Boston Massacre by the British forces. The incident also served as a prediction for many African-Americans about their fate and future in an America which was governed and ruled by British and therefore many of them decided to shift their loyalties and commitments with the Patriots. This can be vindicated from the fact that in April 1775 at Lexington and Concord once again decided to fight with the Patriots. A similar situation was also viewed at the Battle of Bunker Hill where African-Americans and the Patriots fought as single alliance. Many African-Americans who were either enslaved or free by that time realized that by siding they with the Patriots they had a better chance of either gaining independence and subsequently get an incentive that could lead to an expansion of their civil rights. (Lanning, 2000)
Black Loyalist and British forces
It is also important to mention here that many loyalties of the African-American population also rested with British forces. Chronological records show that British forces also used black population as laborers, workers and spies. Majority of the black population aligned their loyalty with the Ethiopian Regiment that was being supervised by Lord Dunmore whereas others such as Seymour Burr remained dedicated to British forces while fighting the Patriots in the North. Records further disclose that it was only during the conclusive phases of the war that the black population serving the British began to decrease. The British forces also used the black population to resist the looming pressure from the Patriot front in places like Charleston, Augusta and Savannah. This can further be vindicated from the fact that in October 1779 when Savannah was under threat by a collaborative operation being launched by Patriot and French forces, the fortifications were secured and guarded by Black Loyalist soldiers by forming an alliance with the British forces.
Their dedication and devotion with the Patriots was not just limited to the battle field fought at various places but these people also served the Patriot forces and their allied cause of independence in the form of guides, messengers and even as spies. Apart from the battle that was being fought on land, African-American population served as a proactive participant in the war at sea also. Due to manpower deficiency at sea both, The Royal Navy of the British forces and the Continental Navy of the Patriots employed African-American to counter threats encircling the sea. Some African-American slaves that were held hostage by the Royal Navy were rescued and used as soldiers by the Patriots against the British forces, hence even at the marine front black and African-American population proved their loyalty with the Patriots with many also serving them in the form of spies and informers.
The Unforgettable Contribution of African-American
All of this was made possible by the hope and enlightenment that had been incorporated in the minds and hearts of the despondent African-American population that showed them a bleak hope for the acquisition of their rights, their rudimentary rights of living a free and slavery free life, a life that could offer them a promising and prosperous future for themselves as well as for their upcoming generations and the initiative of the Patriots provided them all that they desperately required to turn over a new leaf in their lives.
Not only did African-American men but African-American women also participated and advocated the cause that the Patriots stood for in the form of providing independence and liberty from a subdued and persecuted life. Many African-American women who were slaves served in both American and British capacities in the form of nurses to look after the injured of war, as laundresses and as cooks. Hence in some way or the other the contribution made by the African-American population at the battlefront or in any other way cannot be neglected in any way and their desire of liberating themselves from the gilded cage of slavery provoked a spirit within them to raise against all the atrocities, injustices and discrimination that they have suffered for nearly 3000 years. (Keifer, 2008)