African Americans and the Militia

African Americans and the Militia Because it posed an ideological affront to the citizen-solider ideal, blacks’ inability to serve in the militia might have been a foregone conclusion. African Americans did, however, make a significant impact on the colonial military. Both Massachusetts and Connecticut allowed blacks to enlist in their militias periodically, and, in 1707, the former required slaves to enlist and aid in building roads. Rhode Island also allowed both slaves and free blacks to serve. Even colonies that barred arming slaves and free blacks allowed members of both groups to participate in various forms of military labor or as musicians. During the Revolution, African Americans fought on both sides. Thousands of slaves won their freedom from the British; the results for those who fought in the war on behalf of the colonists proved less profitable. While some black militiamen were rewarded by individual states, such as New Jersey, with freedom and even land grants, the march from militia service to citizenship was more gradual and indirect. It would take nearly a century and another war for black military service to pave a solid road to freedom.

African Americans and the Militia Photo Gallery

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