Black Patriots and Loyalists

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  • Hardcover
  • 392 pages
  • Black Patriots and Loyalists
  • Alan Gilbert
  • English
  • 07 July 2019
  • 9780226293073

10 thoughts on “Black Patriots and Loyalists

  1. says:

    Description We commonly think of the American Revolution as simply the war for independence from British colonial rule But, of course, that independence actually applied to only a portion of the American population African Americans would still be bound in slavery for nearly another century Alan Gilbert asks us to rethink what we know about the Revolutionary War, to realize that while white Americans were fighting for their freedom, many black Americans were joining the British imperial forces to gain theirs Further, a movement led by sailors both black and white pushed strongly for emancipation on the American side There were actually two wars being waged at once a political revolution for independence from Britain and a social revolution for emancipation and equality.Gilbert presents persuasive evidence that slavery could have been abolished during the Revolution itself if either side had fully pursued the military advantage of freeing slaves and pressing them into combat, and his extensive research also reveals that free blacks on both sides played a crucial and underappreciated role in the actual fighting Black Patriots and Loyalists contends that the struggle for emancipation was not only basic to the Revolution itself, but was a rousing force that would inspire freedom movements like the abolition societies of the North and the black loyalist pilgrimages for freedom in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone.

  2. says:

    Enjoyable as a narrative and an academic resource Gilbert provides meticulous research that may come off as tedious but is ultimately necessary The concept of the two distinct revolutions puts American history in perspective I especially enjoyed the commentary on John Laurens, one of the admirable figures in early American history and someone I was not aware of before I read this book.

  3. says:

    18 OCT 2015 recommended by Laura.

  4. says:

    Free download available at

  5. says:

    When I read Father Knickerbocker Rebels, I criticised its author for allowing his own viewpoint to so clearly colour his history That was easy to do because I disagreed with the author s biases, and because in the seventy years since the book was written, historiography had moved on to the point that the way they manifested themselves Wertenbaker twisting the history so that it better fit his preferred narrative had become totally unacceptable It s trickier to make the same criticism of Black Patriots and Loyalists, because I completely agree with the author s viewpoint on the great moral evil that slavery was and racism still is, and because that viewpoint colours Gilbert s accounts in different ways But nevertheless, the preference throughout the book for describing things using emotive terms like theft, rape and racist though they re 100% morally correct prevent the sense of detachment or objectivity that a historian depends on for credibility Gilbert is also far too fond of scare quotes , even bizarrely when a one sentence aside about ancient Greek history leads him to making a passing reference to Alexander the Great.But this is a good book on an important aspect of the American Revolutionary War that seems to get little attention in the popular arena A multi faceted picture emerges of the African American experience of the Revolution 1 That blacks fought for either side, depending on which was likely to lead ultimately to their freedom2 That historians have significantly whitewashed our picture of the Revolutionary War for instance, there s a credible case that a full quarter of the Continental Army at the Battle of Yorktown were black.3 That for the most part, for non whites the American Revolution was a cause of liberty against tyranny, but in their case the side of liberty was the British side, while the Americans represented the continuance of tyranny and oppression this is why far blacks and American Indians fought for the British than for the Americans.4 That the British weren t the great emancipators of the American Revolution out of any sort of moral conviction, but from pragmatism they recruited the slaves of the Patriot side because it was a really effective way to hurt the Patriot cause Be that as it may, when the war reached its conclusion, the British leaders in North America felt honour bound to protect the blacks who had served the Crown during the war and went out of their way to remove Africans from American territory and foil American attempts to reenslave them.5 That the war led to something of an upsurge in white abolitionism on both sides of the Atlantic, though it obviously wasn t enough to end the slave trade or end slavery in the American South or the British West Indies.Gilbert is clearly not a specialist in eighteenth century history He s unfamiliar with words like batteau or octoroon he calculates the number of black soldiers in the British Army by counting the number of women and children with the army because, he says, British soldiers and Hessian mercenaries didn t bring their families with them on campaign in fact, it was an extremely common practice for redcoats to be followed by their women and children regiments of the time couldn t have functioned without their services as laundresses, cooks and baggage minders he refers to Benjamin Harrison as a future president Benjamin Harrison was president of the United States from 1889 93, so it would have been especially impressive if he, rather than his great grandfather of the same name, were a Virginia planter who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 Perhaps it s this lack of familiarity with the time that leads him to assert, repeatedly through the book, that either side could have won the war without much effort at all if they had simply decided to abolish slavery and field an army from the thousands of black recruits this would have generated.It sounds like I m being harsh on the book, so I ll end with this I first got a copy through the University of Chicago s free ebook of the month programme, but somewhere along the line, that e dition vanished off my Kobo, so when I sat down to read the book, I had to pay 12 for a new copy I don t regret having to pay full price for a book I already owned, and I m glad I own it once again, because I learnt a lot.

  6. says:

    This is an incredibly deeply researched book that provides a great understanding of how blacks reacted to the American Revolution Most books have focused on the blacks that served with Washington s armies Gilbert does that a complete description of Laurens efforts to get South Carolina to free and enlist blacks against the British, for example but his focus is really on the Loyalist participation, involving many thousands of blacks fleeing slavery and the American political inability to deal with it Although the rhetoric is Marxist, the facts are extensive and well documented you don t need to adopt Gilbert s two revolutions argument to understand the basic nature of black participation on both sides, and on their own side I do wish there were tables and fewer pages and paragraphs of counts of people doing things, it makes the book less readable, as does some of the fulsome language, but the research speaks for itself.

  7. says:

    Great book with some fascinating well documented facts that weren t taught in my history classDespite George Washington s desperation to recover slaves, Henry Washington one of George Washington s many slaves had escaped him and now immigrated to Africa.Where blacks imagined the king as liberator, whites saw only a tyrantA slave who had belonged to George Washington, escaped to the English under Dun in the summer of 1775 Desiring vengeance, George Washington s cousin and manager, wrote that if the slave he comes to Mt Vernon, raising the rest, I will shoot him, that will be some Satisfaction He labeled Governor Dun ,the emancipator of Virginian slaves, Washington called an Arch Traitor to the Rights of Humanity for what amounted to Washington s own crimes.

  8. says:

    So in the musical Hamilton aka the only and every thing that I love , this exchange occurs as the cast narrates the conclusion warning profanity of the Battle of Yorktown JOHN LAURENSBlack and white soldiers wonder alike if this really means freedomGEORGE WASHINGTONNot YetAs of this writing, the Genius annotations for these two lines discuss the rich interpretations of this exchange, and I thought it s a good illustration for the complexity of what the American Revolutionary War meant for black Americans at the time, both free and enslaved, soldier and civilian and what it might mean for present day Americans and the historical traditions we revere, retell, reject I ve been thinking a lot about this because of Hamilton I decided to read this book because of Hamilton, actually Gilbert s book traces black participation in the two concurrent and sometimes contradictory revolutions American s freedom from Britain, and black Americans freedom from slavery Probably unsurprisingly, the short summary is this the Patriot and the Loyalist sides both challenged and reinforced slavery in their pursuit of victory, for reasons both pragmatic and principled, and both sides incorporated blacks in their military, but to different extents and with lackluster documentation Despite the latter, Gilbert writes a thoroughly researched account and account it is Gilbert discusses documentation and then analyzes and defends his interpretations well It s very readable but also a very dry read at times because of So Many Lists, So Many Stories It got reeeaally dry at times Since Gilbert s a political theorist and not a historian by training, I had actually expected political theory that s my academic background , but this is definitely a history.The footnotes are extensive and also sometimes wonderful, as that s where Gilbert manages to contain his polite and professional comments that challenge other researchers for their racism and for their other blinders He footnotes a passage of his that basically calls b.s on white slaveowners claiming their slaves loved them sincerely, and in this footnote, dutifully references a historian who has previously argued otherwise, and calmly adds, but I am skeptical There was one time in his own text that I was kind of taken aback Gilbert compared Colonel Tye to a mountain lion, in a positive fashion, which I thought was weird and an unnecessary dehumanization when no one else was getting their skills compared to an animal s , but for the most part, Gilbert wrote from a solidly and unapologetic anti racist position.And, yeah, I learned a lot from this book and I can recommend it for a learning experience but not necessarily a reading experience although, read the footnotes if you do read this, they re lovely It s a good non fiction read along with or follow up to The Book of Negroes Given the difficulty many Americans have as conceptualizing the Civil War as about slavery, it s probably not an easy sell to demonstrate the extent of how the Revolutionary War was about for whites protecting the practice of slavery I mean, I came to the book pretty cynical and I was still surprised by the extent , and how the Patriots come off even worse than the British in this corner of Great Hypocrisies in History, but I hope this book does get read, and that the stories in here are part of what we think about when we think about American liberty.

  9. says:

    I wanted to like this book, and elements of it were very interesting, but ultimately I found it to be a better work research than of writing The stories Gilbert related were often thought provoking, but the book is very inconsistent The tone shifts wildly from engaging story telling to judgmental preachiness to numbingly dry and stereotypically academic repetition of inessential details.

  10. says:

    A fresh, comprehensive, and new take on racial dynamics in the civil war Biased because the author was my professor.

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