Black History

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Black History Month presents an opportunity to acknowledge and pay respects to African Americans who have helped lay the foundation for our nation throughout history. Many Black men and women sacrificed their liberty and often their lives during the War of Independence. Rhode Island bolstered its fighting ranks with both free Black and Indigenous men and also purchased slaves, freeing them to fight. Others joined the loyalist side.

Here we share their stories from the Battle of Rhode Island through the final victory in 1783.

An illustration of colonial patriot and member of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, Jack Sisson.
1st Rhode Island Regiment at the Battle of Yorktown
1st Rhode Island Regiment at the Battle of Yorktown.

Black History Features

Notice in Providence Gazette

Local enslaved men fought in Revolutionary War

For centuries, many towns failed to acknowledge the contributions of Black soldiers in the War of Independence. Only in 2021 were Jamestown slaves first identified by public historian Peter Fay and honored by the town. They had been sold to the rebel government and promised their freedom for serving.

Black Soldiers of Liberty

Estimates have appeared in print for generations that 3,000 to 5,000 Black soldiers served in the American military in the Revolution.