Enjoy the Same Liberty: Black Americans and the Revolutionary Era (The African American History Series)

Enjoy the Same Liberty: Black Americans and the Revolutionary Era (The African American History Series)

Edward Countryman

Language: English

Pages: 208

ISBN: 1442232811

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this cohesive narrative, Edward Countryman explores the American Revolution in the context of the African American experience, asking a question that blacks have raised since the Revolution: What does the revolutionary promise of freedom and democracy mean for African Americans? Countryman, a Bancroft Prize-winning historian, draws on extensive research and primary sources to help him answer this question. He emphasizes the agency of blacks and explores the immense task facing slaves who wanted freedom, as well as looking at the revolutionary nature of abolitionist sentiment. Countryman focuses on how slaves remembered the Revolution and used its rhetoric to help further their cause of freedom.

Many contend that it is the American Revolution that defines us as Americans. Edward Countryman gives the reader the chance to explore this notion as it is reflected in the African American experience.

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contain God’s inner light. Carolina, whose first settlers came from overcrowded Barbados, simply imported the island’s slave law. Georgia tried to do without slavery after its founding in 1733. But it turned to slavery in 1751, borrowing its law intact from South Carolina, just as South Carolina had borrowed intact from Barbados. Unlike Spanish practice, colonial British slave law gave no recognition to slave marriages or slave parenthood, so masters could separate husbands and wives or parents

deliberately. The ponds where firefighters drew water were frozen and any one of the fires could have set the whole city in flames. “Fire, fire, scorch, scorch, a little, damn it, bye and bye,” a black man named Quack was heard to say as one fire broke out.7 Had he set a fire himself? Was he applauding, or perhaps making a bitter prophecy? We cannot know for sure, because these are the only words of his that ever were recorded. Whatever his intention, Quack was among the slaves who burned at the

as early as the Stamp Act protests of 1765, these people were doing much more than just imitate the whites who surrounded and oppressed them. Actually enslaved, rather than threatened by supposed enslavement, they were turning the enslavers’ language and organization against the enslavers. In May, 1774, a great “number of Blackes” in Massachusetts sent a hand-written petition to the new royal governor, Major General Thomas Gage. They spelled badly, but they had mastered the language of the white

Stockbridge, Massachusetts, reminiscing about how he had served as personal aide to two generals, John Paterson and the Polish volunteer Tadeusz Kosciuszko. He and Kosciuszko rejoiced to see each other when the Pole returned to America in 1797. The Marquis de Lafayette rejoiced the same way in 1824 with former slave James Armistead Lafayette. The American had spied in Lord Cornwallis’s camp during the final siege at Yorktown, to the astonishment of British officers when they saw him among the

progress of slavery. Our Assemblies have repeatedly passed acts laying heavy duties upon imported Negroes, by which they meant altogether to prevent the horrid traffick; but their humane intentions have been as often frustrated by the cruelty and covetousness of a set of English merchants, who prevailed upon the King to repeal our kind and merciful acts, little indeed to the credit of his humanity. Can it then be supposed that the Negroes will be better used by the English, who have always

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