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Slavery - Taylor Petersen American Revolution MWF 8:00...

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Taylor Petersen American Revolution MWF 8:00 April 4, 2008 “From Slave to Soldier” In 1739 George Whitefield, a celebrated preacher who had toured the South, portrayed the misery of the slaves he had encountered. His accounts depict a slave population treated worse than dogs, noting the lashings that “ploughed their backs” and the lack of food they relied on for sustenance. (8) It is hard to imagine performing dull, tiresome, bone-breaking work each day of your life without compensation and under the supposition that you are not fully a man. Harder yet to imagine working for another human that literally owns you as a piece of property and has complete power over your entire life, or being brutally whipped by a cruel master as a result of the most menial obstruction of his authority. This, however, was the ruthless reality that many black slaves endured in the latter half of the 18 th century. Fortunately, the American Revolution would change the tide for African American male slaves, and prove to truly revolutionize many of their lives. When a paradigm shift occurs people go back to zero; in essence, everyone is equal and the institutions that had shaped the old suddenly have little or no worth in shaping the new. Such was the opportunity African American male slaves may have hoped for with the coming of the American Revolution. In colonial America, slaves comprised the lowest rung of society and possessed no power or voice to change their situation; black codes had eliminated African- Americans from having any clout within the law. Moreover, runaways were often caught and punished severely upon their return to their master. Likewise, slave revolts were risky and largely unsuccessful, and organization proved difficult because slaves were rarely literate and
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had other hurdles to communication, such as the near impossibility that slave owners would allow a town-wide slave meeting. Sometimes a disapproving slave would even reveal a planned revolt to his master in order to gain amnesty or special treatment. However, the onslaught of the war would profoundly change the status quo for many male slaves. As both supporters of the crown and the patriots desperately clamored for troops, both would enlist slaves and grant freedom to those who joined. While it is debated whether slaves considered the merits of fighting for either side, many historians believe slaves were typically willing to support either the British or the patriots depending on which they felt gave them the greatest chance to earn their freedom. (1) Nevertheless, a rare and short-lived opportunity for male slaves to gain freedom arose from the chaos and desperation of the revolution, and many slaves would attempt to take advantage it.
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