The American Revolution officially ended on September 3, 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Along with the Civil War, the American Revolution is one of the most noteworthy events in American history. Generations of Americans have honored and commemorated the Revolution by erecting monuments to various peoples, places, and events. According to the Journal of the American Revolution, there are approximately 450 monuments, memorials, statues, and plaques to the American Revolution across the country. This reflects the significance of the event, but where are the stories of the Black soldiers who fought?
During the American Revolution, thousands of Black people fought on both sides of the conflict. But unlike their white counterparts, they were not just fighting for independence or to sustain British rule. At a time when the majority of Black Americans lived in bondage with their labor seeding the economy of the fledgling nation, many accepted to call to arms hoping for freedom from the despotism of chattel slavery.
Historians estimate that between 5,000 and 8,000 Black Americans participated in the Revolution on the Patriot side, and that upward of 20,000 served with the British. More than a few fought with bravery and great prowess, but their exploits have faded from our collective memory. There are many notable and exceptional Black American figures including Crispus Attucks, Peter Salem, and James Armistead Lafayette. Their crucial contributions to the conflict have often gone unnoticed or unacknowledged within the American narrative.
Despite the patriots’ rhetoric about liberty and justice for all, America’s war for independence did not herald widespread emancipation for countless enslaved persons. But for some, the Revolution’s promise of liberty became a reality. The story of Pvt. John Scott is a brilliant example of that reality.