How did the American Revolution affect racial minority groups in the US?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the time of the American Revolution, there were two major racial minorities in the United States.  These were African Americans, most of whom were enslaved, and the Native Americans who were mostly separate from colonial society.  Neither of these groups got any benefit from the Revolution.  In fact, the Native Americans were hurt by it to some degree.  African Americans as a group were not strongly affected.

Some African Americans were affected.  The British promised freedom to slaves who fought for them.  In addition, the same promise was made to some African Americans by the colonists.  The war helped some of these African Americans, who were set free either in the new United States or with the British in Nova Scotia.  However, some were still enslaved in spite of the promises made to them.  As a group, African Americans were not affected much by the Revolution.  The mass of African Americans were slaves before, during, and after the Revolution.

Native Americans were generally harmed by the Revolution.  The British had protected Native Americans to some degree from westward expansion by the colonists.  This was seen most clearly in the Proclamation of 1763.  For this and other reasons, most Native Americans who took sides in the war sided with the British.  When the Americans won the war, they got all the lands east of the Mississippi.  They soon pushed the Native Americans out of these lands.  Thus, the Native Americans suffered from the Revolution because it helped ensure that they would be driven off their ancestral lands.

pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two main groups in this question are African Americans and Native Americans.  During his southern campaign, the British General Cornwallis promised freedom to any slave who escaped and join the British side.  This alienated Southern planters who before this viewed the war  as a fight of Northeastern shopkeepers against Parliament.  Not only did this cause many Southerners to join the patriot cause, but many slaveowners also tightened their grip on their slaves, passing even more stringent punishments on those who showed any signs of disobedience.  Furthermore, the slaves who did run away and join the British army escaped into Canada after the war, rather than go back to the plantations.  Some slaves and freed men helped the colonial army in the North, but their numbers were quite small.  

The Native Americans, who helped the British army during the war, were treated very harshly afterwards.  After the war, the American government signed many treaties with the Native Americans west of the Appalachians in order to push them off of this coveted land.  The end of the war would mark a new bloody chapter in white-native relations, as Britain did not pull out of the Great Lakes region as dictated by the 1783 Treaty of Paris.  

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The American Revolutionary War impacted African Americans and Native Americans in a negative manner. Despite the ideals of the American Revolutionary War regarding equality and freedom, slavery continued to exist in the United States for many years. Even in places in the North where slavery was supposed to end, it continued well into the 1800s. Slavery continued in the South until the end of the Civil War in 1865. While some African Americans received freedom as a result of the Revolutionary War and its ideals, slavery continued to dominate the way of life in the South.

The Revolutionary War also negatively impacted the Native Americans. The Americans believed that the Native Americans helped the British during the war. When the peace treaty ending the war was negotiated, the Native Americans had no representatives at the meetings. The United States believed that by defeating the British, they also had defeated the Native Americans. The Native Americans also lost land, as Great Britain gave the United States land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.

The Revolutionary War generally negatively impacted both African Americans and Native Americans.

aqshawt | Student

The American Revolution had a mixed impact on several of the minority groups in the US, especially Native Americans and African Americans.

Before the revolution, European settlers who came to the US were interested in acquiring land, resources, and goods that were held by various Native American tribes.  Some tribes benefited financially from these trade arrangements with Great Britain and British colonists. Others were not so lucky, especially when they occupied lands that the colonists wanted.  The American Revolution accelerated Native Americans' loss of territory, pushing many of them further west and into alliances with Great Britain, which still held territory to the north and west of the original 13 colonies; they eventually lost even this territory after Great Britain lost the War of 1812 against the US.

The American Revolution also had a mixed impact on people of African descent in the US.  Prior to the revolution, African Americans entered the colonies both as slaves and as indentured servants; after the revolution, most African Americans who entered the US did so as slaves.  Even worse, as the states and the new nation established their governments, laws and statutes like the the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted a slave as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of taxation and representation, wrote racial inequality into the law.  While British colonies like Jamaica abolished slavery in the early 1800s, the US did not do so until the American Civil War, so one could certainly argue that the outcome of the American Revolution delayed freedom for African Americans.