Peter Wood on black men during the Revolutionary War
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Q: What are the issues that you are grappling with as a black man during the American Revolution?
A: You try to figure out what's best in the long run for the things that you believe in.
We know, for instance, the case of Seymour Burr --he's a slave to the brother of Aaron Burr -- he's living in Connecticut. His first decision is to run away to try and join the British and fight with them. He's captured, brought back, convinces his master that he should be allowed to fight for the American cause, to earn his freedom that way, and he ends up fighting for the American Patriots. He's looked at both those choices.
Boston King, who is a young man in South Carolina with a Christian background, fine command of English, strong awareness of the competing options, decides to side with the British. And in fact, many more African Americans side with the British than side with the Patriot cause. It's not surprising. My enemy's enemy is my friend, potentially. That's certainly something we always have to think about. So, if I'm owned by a white planter in Virginia and his enemy is Lord Cornwallis, then potentially Lord Cornwallis and these British Red Coats are my friend. I would at least consider that equation.
Professor of History
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