In taverns in the 1760s, radical artisans and sailors, black as well as white in the Northern colonies, discussed these issues. After 1770 they composed every revolutionary crowd from the Boston Tea Party on.

As early as 1772, when tension was building between the Crown and the American colonists, British Royal Governor Lord Dunmore of threatened to raze the mansions and emancipate all the slaves and indentured servants of all who challenged royal authority. By November, 1775, when Dunmore issued a proclamation to this effect, blacks throughout the South had come to sympathize with and escape to British occupied territory. They were, by his single act, "Torified." Dunmore is thus an inadvertent hero of emancipation. Correspondingly, Southern states like Virginia and rebelled from the Crown to preserve bondage. White-led secession in the South, that is, the Southern colonies being persuaded by this bold act to support the revolutionary cause, prefigured the similar act that led to the American Civil War.

Clearly the Revolution brought freedom to tens of thousands of African Americans, although often in unanticipated and contradictory ways. A black prince from was kidnapped in the 1740s, sold into slavery in , renamed , and branded. But Peters escaped and joined the British Black Pioneers, a royal military unit. Having fought with the British throughout the Revolutionary War, he, along with thousands of Crown supporters, were to after the conflict ended. Peters was one of five or six thousand more free black émigrés who left for . But when Peters and other Crown supporters were not allocated the promised plots of land by British officials in Nova Scotia, he led a protest movement, first in Canada for land, and then he and others eventually emigrated to , the newly founded colony on the west coast of Africa, which would be the new home of former slaves from throughout the British Empire.

John Laurens, the son of a South Carolina slave-owner and second President of the Continental Congress Henry Laurens, studied in Geneva, prior to the American Revolution, where he became acquainted with the abolitionist views of Rousseau. He returned to fight in the American Revolution. He served as to Washington and promoted emancipation. His proposal to liberate 3,000 to 5,000 blacks in South Carolina and in exchange for fighting, passed the Continental Congress in 1779, which was the zenith of official support for emancipation. But despite Congressional authorization, the South Carolina legislature refused to embrace the act and it subsequently was never approved by other Southern assemblies.

Yet there are numerous examples of black participation on both sides of the American struggle for independence. In 1781, a private named Georg Daniel Flohr, who fought with the French Royal Deux-Ponts on the American side at Yorktown, left one such account. Walking around the field of battle afterwards, he recorded in his diary that the majority of bodies on both sides "were Mohren [Moors]."


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