Part 1: 1450-1750
<---Part 2: 1750-1805
Part 3: 1791-1831
Part 4: 1831-1865

Narrative | Resource Bank | Teacher's Guide

Modern Voices
Peter Wood on Dunmore's Proclamation's effect on the war
Resource Bank Contents

Q: How does Dunmore's Proclamation affect the war?
Peter Wood

A: Obviously, Dunmore's proclamation raises the ante for everybody. It creates the possibility of a serious slave uprising for freedom. "How are we going to control that?" these white planters think. Washington, in his letters in the winter of '75-76, says, "We've got to contain Dunmore, or this will become like a snowball." He has this vision, for him quite startling and upsetting, of this proclamation gaining momentum, of hundreds of people, and then thousands of people joining Dunmore's cause and retaking control of Virginia under very different terms....

Lord Dunmore's proclamation really makes clear that, like it or not, the issue of where these five hundred thousand African Americans are going to end up in this struggle is a major issue, it's central to the war... It didn't make it significant, it already was significant. And similarly, in the American Revolution the presence of these five hundred thousand people, their aspirations for [an end to] slavery, their personal and collective choices about whom to side with and on what terms -- that was central to the struggle in the 1770s and 1780s.
Peter Wood
Professor of History
Duke University

previous | next

Part 2: Narrative | Resource Bank Contents | Teacher's Guide

Africans in America: Home | Resource Bank Index | Search | Shop

WGBH | PBS Online | ©