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.
Black History Features
Should They Stay or Should They Go? Rhode Island Black Loyalists after the American Revolution
In late 1779 Newport’s black residents, free or enslaved, faced a predicament: should they stay or should they go? Should they choose freedom but risk an uncertain future under British protection, or should they stay enslaved in wartime Rhode Island?
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.
Creative Survival: Africans as Mariners in Colonial Rhode Island
The introduction of African bondage was a transformative experience that lasted over a span of four centuries and shaped the settlement, economic, religious and cultural growth of the Western Hemisphere.
A Fight for Freedom and Dignity: The Recruitment, Service , and Legacy of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment
The attempted formation of a regiment of soldiers composed entirely of enslaved men who had enlisted to earn them their freedom.