The Military: An Impetus for Social Reform

976 Words2 Pages
The Military: An Impetus for Social Reform Revolutionary War The military since the Colonial Era has been an impetus for social reform in the United States. The Revolutionary War afforded Black Americans an opportunity to escape from the toils of slavery and fight for freedom. Some Black Americans even earned their freedom by fighting for the Colonists, but still the freedom they fought for wasn’t their own. However, the military was responsible for the freedom of many slaves and some of these freed slaves became legendary soldiers like Salem Poor. His performance in battle gave credibility for future arguments about blacks being allowed to serve. In the colonial era slavery was permissible by law in every colony. Blacks were 20% of the overall population of the 13 colonies and only 8% of them were free blacks ( Colonists commonly used African slave labor despite the question of whether slavery was morally right. Life for blacks in the revolutionary period was one of slavery and discrimination. Only 8 percent of blacks were free [Edgar A Toppin. “Blacks in the American Revolution” (published essay, Virginia State University, 1976), p 1] and this so-called freedom merely meant that they could own and defend property. They weren’t allowed to mingle with whites and were wholly segregated. Blacks during this time period worked predominantly in the fields planting and harvesting Tobacco. They worked long hours and were likely to be sold at some point in their lives. This separated families and kept morale very low. Plantation slaves were also subject to brutal punishments because they weren’t regarded as having high value. However, with the onset of the Revolutionary War, the British invited blacks to join the British Army and in return, they would receive their freedom. Thoughts of wholesale desertion of slaves to the British regiments created a fear that swept throughout the colonies and led colonists to allow blacks to fight for the local militias and even the army. Serving in the Revolutionary War enabled many slaves to earn their freedom, but to their dismay, not equality. Although blacks served in segregated units, the military gave them opportunity to gain respect through acts of courage and valor. Black soldiers like Salem Poor gained respect from white men. Lemuel Haynes used his military experience to fight for abolition of slavery by writing the essay “Liberty Further Extended.
Open Document