Part 1: 1450-1750
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Part 3: 1791-1831
Part 4: 1831-1865

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Modern Voices
Betty Wood on blacks fighting in the American Revolution
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Q: Benjamin Quarrels has said that blacks fighting in the American Revolution were fighting not for America's independence from Britain, but were fighting for the principle of freedom. How does that resound with you?
Betty Wood

A: If we ask why did enslaved and free African Americans participate in the war for American Independence, did they have any choice in the matter? And yes, many enslaved and free African Americans did have a choice. It was not simply a case of the war passing them by. Their involvement, and certainly their military involvement, I think, reflected their own desire for liberty, their own desire for freedom, not necessarily a desire to secure the political freedom of their owners or to secure the political domination of the American colonies by the British.

And in this sense, I think that the participation of enslaved people and free African Americans in the War for Independence was a direct statement of the ways in which they believed they could best secure their own liberty and their own freedom. For African Americans, that was the top priority: their own freedom.
Betty Wood
Professor of History
Oxford University

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