Discuss the role of African- Americans in the Revolutionary war, both at home and on the battlefields.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The role of African- Americans in the American Revolution mirrored much of the legacy that African- Americans played in the development of the nation.  They bore a large amount of the sacrifice and received little in way of reward or acknowledgement.  "Between 8,000 and 10,000 blacks served in the Continental army at one time or another, comprising about a quarter of America's armed forces."  The Continental Army was in dire need of soldiers, and while many in the contingent of African- American segment were enslaved, they were used for fighting purposes.  Some states used slaves in order to meet their quotas.  As the war wore on, it became clear that there was a need for soldiers and turning to African- Americans reflected this motivation.  

African- Americans who fought for the Patriot side were doing so for a variety of reasons. Crispus Attucks died in the Boston Massacre, seeking to redress grievance in front of the British soldiers.  Seen as "the first Black American to die for his country," Attucks set a standard as embodying the sacrifice for a nation that might not have fully repaid its debt. At the same time, some slaves were employed to continue their domestic servitude and operate as spies for one side or another.  Marquis de Lafayaette enlisted James Armistead to spy for him as a slave.  Armistead used his domestic and home- bound capacity to deliver useful reports for the Continental Army leader. Others simply sided with their slave masters and served when they were told and obeyed orders given.   No elected leader took the stand that slavery in the colonies would end with an American victory.  Such a realization shows how the sacrifice of American- Americans in the war was never fully replenished by those in the position of power.