American Revolution and Slavery

The American Revolution that resulted in the independence of the nation was triggered by several reasons including the need to end slavery. Back in England, the British government had passed an important judgment annulling slavery in 1772. Nevertheless, in America the whites were just starting to enjoy the labor of the minority African Americans and slave owners enjoyed many benefits as slaves worked for them virtually in all sectors. The start of American Revolution could therefore be no more than a blessing in disguise as the slaves saw it as a way of emancipating themselves from slavery. This paper discusses the views concerning American Revolution and the role that slavery played in this war.

The American Revolution was a culmination of the several factors including the need to free slaves. This factor made the war to be complicated that while a few African Americans fought for the Continental army, many of the slaves fought for the British army. This may have complicated the main focus of the war because two groups of people; one a slave and the other were fighting for two opposing courses when in fact they were supposed to be united against the British. Part of the reason a majority of slaves supported the British army was the thinking that victory to the British would invariable result in their freedom (Crow, 1992). The American whites saw the role of the African Americans in the revolution as an act of betrayal as they were logically supposed to support the whites who were fighting for independence of their country. This paper discusses the role of the slaves in the American Revolution. The paper argues that slavery was the main reason that kept the American Revolution going once it started.

The British Army and the Slaves

According to Frey (1999), the British army enjoyed a wider support from the African Americans in the wake of American Revolution to the tune of four African Americans in the British army against one for the continental army. Part of the reason was that the British government had ended slavery in Britain and the American whites feared that allowing the continuation of the British rule in their country would definitely lead to an imminent end to slavery. Inasmuch as the continental army was fighting for the freedom of the entire nation, and which culminated in the independence in1776, there were vested interests in the events following the war. The American whites wanted also to protect their right for slave ownership and therefore interpreted victory against the British to mean that slavery was not yet done with. Some notable white Americans had decried foul by the British army, that the army was out to arm the African Americans to “let loose Indians on our Frontiers” and to “raise the Negroes against us;” a plot that included arming slaves (Frey, 1999).  Indeed this were the words of Joseph Hewes one of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence from North Carolina. The British army was also accused of incitement of the Negroes, “to cut our throats, and involve the men, women, and children in one universal massacre (Frey, 1999).”

Double Courses for Slaves in the American Revolution

Frey (1999) argued that inasmuch as majority of the slaves fought in the sight of British army during the American Revolution, they were carrying double burden with them. First, they knew that the American nation needed to be independent from the British rule just as they needed emancipation from slavery. The second burden was that of emancipating themselves from the slave owners within their own country. The 1776 Declaration of Independence was therefore a turning point for African American fighters in the revolution as they saw it as an opportunity to concentrate and focus their efforts to fighting for freedom. To most of them, it was simply the continuation of what had started in the American Revolution. In fact, the revolution had simply set them ready for even tougher times ahead as they had to now deal with the more difficult reality of fighting against the actual slave owners who were not ready to part with a single slave in the name of emancipation.

The leaders of American revolution has found a lot of use in the African Americans who were fighting on their side, but as their numbers in the militia continued to surge, they became wary that a larger number of African Americans in the militia posed a danger to themselves because they would turn against them one day. As such, those African Americans who chose to fight for the course of the freedom in America had to deal with antitrust from within the circles of revolutionary leaders and from their fellow African Americans who had chosen to fight for the British Army. The concern for the increase in the number of African American enlisted in the army during the American Revolution led to the stoppage of recruiting more militias to fight for the course of the Continental Army (Crow, 1992).

While many slaves opted to work with the British Army during the American Revolution, it was also clear that the British did not trust the blacks so much as they were using them as slaves too. Slave ownership was not limited to white Americans only but also to the British. As such, the question of slavery was defining factor in the American Revolution. This is because both sides were wary of the slaves who were known to have a well-established intelligence amongst themselves (Crow, 1992). This organization of the slaves was what kept the American Revolution going many years after independence. As rightly observed by Samuel Johnson in Frey (1999), the loudest yelps for liberty were coming from the drivers of slaves yet the question of slavery was in the middle of the American Revolution.


From the discussion above, it is agreeable that the American Revolution was driven by the question of slavery as much as the question of independence. The American whites wanted their liberty from the British while the slaves wanted liberty from both the white Americans and the British. The conflict of interests between the white Americans, the echelon of slavery, and the slaves saw the continuation of the American Revolution long after the Declaration of Independence. It is as though the issue of slavery was always in the midst of the American Revolution and the main cause in the aftermath of independence in 1776.

Order now

Related essays