The Untold Stories of African-American in Our War for Independence

This year my wife read to our children a book titled Come All You Brave Soldiers: Blacks in the Revolutionary War written by Clinton Cox, “author of several highly-acclaimed books for young readers, including three on fascinating yet little-known aspects of African American military history,” ( In Come All You Brave Soldiers, Cox recounts the untold, real stories of how African Americans helped win our War for Independence. Cox is clear and captivating, but not at the expense of facts. He is very much the scholar when it comes to educating his readers.

But writing history the way history happens is a hard assignment because our heroes don’t always pose just right for the camera. And we do prefer to romance our history, if only just a little. Cox didn’t. That’s what I found so riveting about his rendition of the war that set us free. With little dispute, the war for our independence is a bright day in American history. But we all know that we’ve picked up a fairy tale if we read that the sun always shines and never casts a dark shadow. And America, as great as it is, is not Camelot or Atlantis. But I digress.

Whose Independence was the War of Independence fought for?

In the real battle for our independence, it became very clear, that even if we won, everyone wasn’t going to be free. Here’s the painful irony of the War for Independence—African Americans were fighting for the land we helped make prosperous. We were fighting for our new home. But so long as we fought on the side of the colonists, we were helping to liberate the very ones who would make sure that we remained captives. So the War for Independence in real history wasn’t a war for independence for everybody. It was just a war for Independence if you weren’t black or brown.

So as An African-American Father, What do I Tell my Kids about Independence Day?

I will tell them the truth. Shouldn’t I? Isn’t that what we are supposed to tell our kids? I will tell them that the great founders of our nation spoke boldly of freedom and enlisted African Americans to fight alongside them to the death for freedom. I will tell them that around 5,000 African Americans enlisted in and fought bravely in the Continental Army. I will tell them that these brave African American soldiers, their forefathers, did this, despite the fact that their enemy—the British—offered them freedom and their countrymen continued slavery. I will tell them that their forefathers, men like Crispus Attucks, died fighting for America. I will tell them of men like James Robinson who fought gallantly, and men like James Amistead who risked everything as spies and survived the war only to be returned to slavery before gaining their freedom. I will tell them that others—many others—fought as soldiers for freedom and died as slaves in the very land that they helped to free. I will tell them that their forefathers fought for America even though America wasn’t fighting for them.

There are Noble Reasons to Sacrifice Your Liberty

I will tell my children that there are noble causes that are bigger than them. I will try to inspire them with the legacy of their brave forefathers who fought, died, and were re-enslaved, sacrificing all so that one day in America their children, or grandchildren, or great-great grand children would be free. So in the end, their slogan was “give me slavery and give me death so that my children’s children won’t have to endure this.” I will tell my children that the sacrifice of those brave men turned the tide in an otherwise almost unwinnable war, and as a result of their great sacrifice, America became free and has become the greatest nation on the face of the earth. I will tell my children that a heavy price was paid for their freedom, a cost paid bravely by their forefathers.

I will tell my children to respect men like George Washington, but not to idealize any man because we all have grave shorting-comings, and that none of us, even on our best days, are what we should hope to be. I will tell them this so that they will be gracious and not embittered about their past. I will tell them to enjoy the sun that shines in our country but to look for a brighter day — a day when the Son will reign over a truly free land where the brilliance of His glory will cast no shadows. I will tell them that they should thank God they live in America, but I will pray that they will live as foreigners longing for a citizenship in a better land—in Beulah land — a glorious place that exceeds any fairy tale you could dream of (1 Cor 2:9), a place where all who trust Jesus will be free because He died as a slave in place of sinners on a tree (Phil 2:5-11).

So What Will I Tell my Kids about Independence Day?

I will tell them to enjoy the fireworks because their forefathers fought in that great war too. I will also tell them a few other truths that most Americans have long since forgotten. I will particularly tell my kids those truths from history because I pray they will never forget the sacrifices that their forefathers made to make America free. I will tell them so that they will, as bravely as their forefathers fought, remind America on the 4th of July not to forget to celebrate their brave forefathers too.

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  • Avatar ncgma says:

    Beautiful, thank you so much!

  • Avatar Pastor Bobby Scott says:

    🙂 God bless you. You’re welcome. Thanks for reading.

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Hey Bobby:
    This is what I’m going to tell my visiting grandchildren about Independence Day. Great post, my brother.

  • Avatar Pastor Bobby Scott says:

    I can’t wait till Naomi and I get grandkids to teach and spoil. You’ll have to tell me how it went when we see you in Chi-town.

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Yeah, they are a real joy. Last Thursday, the Lord gave us another one, Jade Ruth. She has Jamie’s middle name (Ruth), so you know she will be good and spoiled. See ya in Chi-town and in Vernon Hills, Lord willing. Looking forward to your ministry to the New Life church family.

  • Avatar D.A. Horton says:

    Thank you for writing another great piece! I praise God for your wisdom pastor! Love you dearly!


  • Avatar DAVID HARE says:

    I am a white man that has adopted four Ethiopian children. Are there any other book recommendations you would give so that I can give my kids a more balanced view of history? Or black heroes to admire?

    Also, does not seem to lead to a working website.


  • Avatar Pastor Bobby Scott says:

    Dave, we’ve read the following to our kids and have been deeply enriched by them. Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Up from Slavery (Booker T. Washington), Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Ben Caron’s Gifted Hands, Elijah Buxton. We do this with films as well i.e. We’ve shown them “Something the Lord Made. . . But also we read children’s books about the holocaust, the cultural revolution in China, etc. to give them a broad swath of the human experience.

    And sorry about the dead link. It was active when I first read his book a few years ago.

  • Avatar Pastor Bobby Scott says:

    God bless you too brother. Keep writing! Can’t wait to you get to LA.

  • Avatar DAVID HARE says:

    Thanks, that really helps!

  • Avatar Sandi Lee says:

    I enjoyed this article and appreciate that a friend shared in on Facebook. I would like to mention though that slavery wasn’t abolished in the UK until 1833 so the British weren’t offering freedom to those who fought during the Revolutionary War.

  • Avatar Darlene Benoit says:

    Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation[edit]

    In November 1775 Lord Dunmore issued a controversial proclamation, later known as Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation. Faced with rebellion and short of troops,Virginia’s royal governor called on all able-bodied men to assist him in the defense of the colony, including enslaved Africans belonging to rebels. He promised such slave recruits freedom in exchange for service in the British Army.

    …I do require every Person capable of bearing Arms, to resort to His MAJESTY’S STANDARD, or be looked upon as Traitors to His MAJESTY’S Crown and Government, and thereby become liable to the Penalty the Law inflicts upon such Offences; such as forfeiture of Life, confiscation of Lands, &c. &c. And I do hereby further declare all indented Servants, Negroes, or others, (appertaining to Rebels,) free that are able and willing to bear Arms, they joining His MAJESTY’S Troops as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper Sense of their Duty, to His MAJESTY’S Crown and Dignity.— Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation, November 7, 1775[6]

    Within a month about 800 formerly enslaved African Americans had escaped to Norfolk, Virginia to enlist. It is likely that far more heard the call and would have joined if not for the fear of reprisal.[7][8]

    Outraged Virginia slave owners decreed that runaway slaves would be executed. They also engaged in a smear campaign of the British Army’s promises, saying that slaves who escaped to the British would be sold to sugar cane plantations in the West Indies. Despite this, many slaves were willing to risk their lives for a chance at freedom.[9]

  • Avatar Darlene Benoit says:

    I will tell them that they should thank God they live in America, but I will pray that they will live as foreigners longing for a citizenship in a better land—in Beulah land — a glorious place that exceeds any fairy tale you could dream of (1 Cor 2:9), a place where all who trust Jesus will be free because He died as a slave in place of sinners on a tree (Phil 2:5-11).

    Can you elaborate on that point where you said that Jesus died as a slave? I don’t know that you could define Jesus as a slave out of the word “servant”. A slave is a servant, but a servant is not necessarily defined as a slave.

    I appreciate your article and it has definitely made me think more about this subject and I have learned a lot. I agree with you, that we should not idolize men, because no one is perfect except God.

  • Avatar Pastor Bobby Scott says:

    Thanks for the point of clarification Sandi. The British didn’t offer slaves freedom in Britain, but freedom in America if they chose to fight on their side. This perhaps could have been disingenuous but having lost the war, we’ll never know. But I’ll double check. This is an important issue to get right. Also thanks for the answer Darlene.

  • Avatar Pastor Bobby Scott says:

    The word bond-servant or servant in many contexts in our English Bibles is the Greek word doulos. The word doulos everywhere in ancient Greek literature means slave. It is translated servant in English translations to avoid the negative connotations that the word gained from Western enslavement of Africans. Louw and Nida dictionary defines doulos this way, “pertaining to a state of being completely controlled by someone or something — ‘subservient to, controlled by.’” John MacArthur explains in his book Slave how it is an honor for Christians to be slaves of Christ.

    Here’s Phil 2:5-7 in the NET Bible. “You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, . . .”

    The meaning of Jesus becoming a slave here means that Jesus condescended to the point of relinquishing all of His rights in order to die the death that we deserved. In dying as a slave in our place, Jesus paid the price for our sin and satisfied the wrath of God. Now as the risen Lord, He has all authority in heaven and earth to pardon whom He wills. And He has decreed that He would forgive all who by His grace repent from their sins and believe in Him.

  • Avatar Darlene Benoit says:

    The wikipedia link that I posted is about the Black Loyalists, which also included those Americans who joined the British, has information about that which was very interesting.

  • Avatar Darlene Benoit says:

    Below is the information that is in The Book of Negroes.


    African Americans who escaped to the British during the American Revolutionary War became the first settlement of Black Nova Scotians and Black Canadians. Other Black Loyalists were transported to settlements in several islands in the West Indies and some to London. Recorded in 1783, this 150-page document is the only one to have recorded Black Americans in a large, detailed scope of work.[1]


    The document contains records on 3000 African Americans; the former slaves recorded in the Book of Negroes were evacuated to British North America, where they were settled in the newly established Birchtown, Nova Scotia and other places in the colony. According to the Treaty of Paris (1783), the United States argued for the return of all property, including slaves. The British refused to return the slaves whom they had promised freedom during the war for joining their cause. The detailed records were created to document those freedmen whom the British resettled in Nova Scotia, along with other Loyalists.

    Some freedmen later migrated from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone, where they formed the original settlers of Freetown, under the auspices of the Sierra Leone Company. They founded the Krio people.

    Notable people recorded in the Book of Negroes include Boston King, Henry Washington, Moses Wilkinson and Cato Perkins.

    As the Book of Negroes was recorded separately by American and British officers, there are two versions of the document. The original British version is held in the UK National Archives in Kew, London. The American version of the Book of Negroes is held by the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC. It was published under the title The Black Loyalist Directory: African Americans in Exile After the American Revolution (1996), edited by Graham Russell Hodges, Susan Hawkes Cook, and Alan Edward Brown.*[2]

  • Avatar Darlene Benoit says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I had a feeling it might have had something to do with the original word used in the Greek. Like you said, it is an honor for Christians to be slaves of Christ, then was Jesus a slave to His Father?

  • Avatar Pastor Bobby Scott says:

    In the Philippians 2:7, the emphasis is on Christ entering into the state of slavery rather than becoming a slave to a particular person. The context contrasts Christ’s deity with the condescension of His incarnation. Jesus, being God, stooped to become not only a man but to the lowest station of man, a slave who would die on a cross.

    The statement that Jesus ‘took the form of a slave’ thus means that he ‘so completely stripped himself of the rights and securities as to be comparable to a slave.’ This assertion ‘constitutes a poignant description of his absolute and extreme self-emptying – even of basic human rights…’” (O’Brien, quoting Moule, p. 222).

  • Avatar Sarah Quinn says:

    I appreciate this so much. My husband and I are raising 5 children in the ministry, but most importantly, for the Lord. We know that history books are sorely lacking in the non-glossing over of the American way of life and how it was attained. Up until recently, even our understanding of President Lincoln was awry. One thing we drive into our children is that THIS is not our home. We live in America, and appreciate the good things that exist within this earthly country, but THIS is not our country. Our appreciation for the wars that were fought for ALL freedoms runs deep. But at the risk of being misunderstood, our eyes are only fixed on our true Homeland…and our flag of freedom is a rough cross stained with blood. Not as many within the American church view it this radically.

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