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Ideals and Realities
Many people of African descent lived in the American colonies. Did any of them fight in the Revolutionary War?

by Damon Huss

What is the reality?

ethiopian_regimentThey fought on both sides of the war. Despite the enslavement of hundreds of thousands of black Africans in the American colonies, as many as 5,000 free African Americans fought in the Continental Army, and hundreds more served at sea.

In 1775, however, General George Washington stopped all recruitment of African Americans. He did not alter that policy until three years later in an attempt to increase the army’s shrinking numbers. More African Americans fought as Loyalists. In 1775, Lord Dunmore, the British governor of Virginia, offered freedom for any black slave or white indentured servant who would take up arms against the American Continental Army. After the victory of Washington at Yorktown, Americans rounded up many African Americans to be re-enslaved. Historians estimate that as many as 20,000 African Americans fought on the British side.


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