by Cheryl Brown Abernathy
Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history. [https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month]
If you Google it, there is a lot of information out there. February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass. Abraham Lincoln, we know from our history classes that he was the author of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves. Frederick Douglass was a former slave who became a prominent activist, author and public speaker and a leader in the abolitionist movement.
Do you know there were African American in the Revolutionary War? Both enslaved and free fought in the Continental Army and the First Rhode Island Regiment is the most famous regiment that included African Americans during the American Revolution. Some of the more famous ones include:
- Crispus Attucks
- Caesar Ferrit
- Cato Smith
- Peter Salem (Salem Middlesex)
- Asaba (Grosvenor)
- Titus Coburn
- Salem Poor
- Jude Hall
- Prince Dunsick
Check out their stories on the National Park Service website – https://www.nps.gov/chyo/learn/historyculture/african-americans-in-the-revolutionary-war.htm.
There’s also information about Black Soldiers in the Revolutionary War on https://www.army.mil/article/97705/black_soldiers_in_the_revolutionary_war.
Forgotten Patriots – African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War: A Guide to Service, Sources, and Studies – identifies over 6,600 of African American and American Indians who contributed to the America’s Independence and is free to download – https://www.dar.org/library/forgotten-patriots/forgotten-patriots-book
A Google search of “African Americans in the Revolutionary War” turns up even more sites than the above two.
Not only did they fight in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War had those, whether enslaved, escaped or born free, fight to actively affect the outcome. From fighting on the bloody battlefield to espionage behind enemy lines; daring escapes to political maneuvering; saving wounded soldiers to teaching them how to read, there are six African Americans who fought to abolish slavery and discrimination.
- Harriet Tubman
- Alexander Augusta
- Abraham Galloway
- Frederick Douglass
- Robert Smalls
- Susie King Taylor
Learn more about them at: https://www.history.com/news/black-heroes-us-civil-war-tubman-douglass-augusta-smalls-galloway
African Americans have fought in every war since the Revolutionary. Some only in noncombative support roles. In most wars there was at least a unit or sometimes an entire division that was made up of African Americans. A search on the internet will provide plenty of references.
African American lineage if often difficult to follow back; however, it can be done. There are any number of resources available. A few include:
- Library of Congress – https://guides.loc.gov/african-american-family-histories/subjects
- Family Search Wiki – https://www.familysearch.org/en/wiki/African_American_Genealogy
- Black History Month – https://blackhistorymonth.gov/
- Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) – https://asalh.org/
- Family History Daily – https://familyhistorydaily.com/free-genealogy-resources/african-american-genealogy-research/