African-American Founders


Africans came to the New World (including the English colonies) as slaves. However, the status of slavery wasn't the same originally as it was in the South leading up to the Civil War. There were numerous African-Americans who fought for the colonies to gain independence over the British.

Crispus Attucks: First to attack Britsh soldiers in Boston in 1770, which led to the Boston Massacre. He was killed when the British soldiers fired at colonists throwing snowballs at them and he is often said to be the first man to die in the fight against British oppression.

James Armistead: Spy for the Continental Army. The British believed he was spying for them (he was a double agent). He told Cornwallis that there was no opposition at Yorktown and therefore, the British ships left, which enabled the French to block the coastline and the British had to surrender. For his heroics, his freedom was granted by the Virginia legislature. Years later the state awarded him a pension and a grant.

Wentworth Cheswell: On 13 December 1774, Cheswell rode along with Paul Revere to Portsmouth to warn the town that the British warships, frigate Scarborough and the sloop of war Canseau, were on their way to re-take possession of Ft. William and Mary, after the colonists had removed 100 barrels of gun powder, light cannons,and small arms.

Peter Salem: Saved numerous lives at Bunker Hill and earned accommodations. He stepped up and shot a British soldier who demanded surrender of colonists. He had been granted his freedom, which enabled him to fight. He also fought at Saratoga.

Lemuel Hayes: First black minister of a white congregation. He became a Revolutionary War soldier. Also, he was the first to earn a master's degree in America.

Benjamin Banneker: Scientist who taught himself to read. He wrote an almanac that predicted 10 years ahead of what was happening. He also surveyed the layout of D.C.

Richard Allen: First black to practice medicine in America (taught by Benjamin Rush). He also fought in the Revolution.

Rev. Absalom Jones: Served with Allen and Rush to treat 30,000 of yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793, whcih killed 10% of the population. No one knew the cause. He gave a sermon saying Jan. 1 should be celebrated each year starting in 1808 (the year the Constitution said the slave trade would be illegal - most thought it would start the end of slavery.

Jack Sisson: Took part in a successful prisoner exchange in the Revolution. General Charles Lee (2nd in command) was captured by the British in December of 1776. Lt. Col. William Barton came up with a plan to capture British General Richard Prescott. Sisson knocked the door down with his head to capture Prescott in order to negotiate an exchange.

Prince Whipple: Crossed the Delaware with Washington on Christmas night of 1776 to attack the Hessians in the Battle of Trenton.

Altogether, blacks and whites were fighting for independence. Obituaries of the times show that blacks received pensions and held positions like whites and didn't show a difference between blacks and whites (in terms of treating one as superior over the other). Caeser Glover was brought from Africa as a slave, but fought in the Revolution and earned a pension, which meant he served and earned a pension, and therefore race didn't matter. Bristol Rhodes also served earned a pension and was known for being at Yorktown. Henry Hill served at Lexington, Brandywine, Monmouth, Yorktown, and got allhonors a veteran gets at his funeral (again race didn't matter). Thomas Hercules was elected town clerk in Easton, PA because of worth and ability (race didn't matter).


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