Black Americans in the Revolutionary Era

How did black Americans use secular Enlightenment ideals to convey their message about freedom prior to and after the war? Be sure to include specific examples from the text to support your statements.

discussion 4.2

  1. How and why did black Americans support the patriot cause during the war? Not loyalists y’all; the patriot cause.

discussion 4.3

  1. This one requires some thoughtful consideration as well as the use of Zinn’s text alongside Holton.

To what extent did black Americans benefit from the war for independence? How do Zinn and Holton agree on this subject? How do they disagree?

Katie Philips: The effect of the Revolutionary War on African Americans is complicated, and both Zinn and Holton acknowledge the duality of its impact. On the one hand, Zinn and Holton both agree that the Revolution, in its ideals and military action, effectively catalyzed black American’s political involvement. Zinn references the shift in black American rhetoric when he writes, “what the Revolution did was to create space and opportunity for blacks to begin making demands of white society” (Zinn 88). Similarly, Hilton writes, “the ideals of the Revolution propelled the early abolition movement forward” (Holton Loc 517). Both writers make the case that because of the Revolutionary language about freedom and natural rights, black Americans were able to vocalize their needs and issues more successfully. Zinn and Holton both see that the military was an alleged opportunity for black Americans. Zinn writes, “the military became a place of promise for the poor, who might rise in rank, acquire some money, change their social status” (Zinn 77). Holton, maintaining a similar perspective, states in regard to the effect of military service, “some became free, some were exiled, some gave new momentum to a growing abolition movement. . . (Holton Loc 593). Although Zinn is acknowledging the possibilities which the military provided, he, unlike Holton, does stress that the Revolution did not do anything to change class structure, which he sees as the most significant issue at the time. He points out that although the revolution was won, it was won to keep the power of the already wealthy and elite autonomous from that of Britain. The land which was one was simply redistributed among the elite (Zinn 84). Zinn seems to feel more skeptically toward the benefit of the Revolution for African Americans than Holton, because he sees the removal of the English power from the states as a tactic for “establish[ing] supremacy for the rich and powerful in the new nation” (Zinn 89). Conversely, Holton writes, “the era of the American Revolution was every bit as critical for African Americans as it was for the white Americans who gained independence from Britain, but their story is far less well known” (Holton Loc 565). Still though, Holton sees that the Revolution did not solve the issue of slavery by any means (Holton Loc 593). Both authors see that the Revolution had influence over black Americans, but it did not solve their problems.