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Black Heroes of the American Revolution / by Burke Davis


Title:  Black Heroes of the American Revolution
Author:  Burke Davis
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN:  9780152085612
Year:  1992

Concepts: slavery, human resources, innovation, social justice

Review: With this book, Burke Davis provides an excellent piece of work that documents the important and oft-forgotten contributions of black Americans who fought during the American Revolution.  While most history books focus on white heroes such as George Washington, Paul Revere, and Ethan Allen, this book focuses on the black Americans who fought bravely and heroically for freedom and independence in the American Revolution. 

When the Revolution started, the American colonies had a population of about two and a half million people, one fifth of whom were black, mostly slaves.  The courage and bravery demonstrated by blacks during the Revolution influenced legal decisions in the northern states to abolish slavery, leading to freedom for about 60,000 slaves.  Yet for the most part, acts of heroism and the contributions of blacks during the Revolution either went unrecorded or were not widely publicized.

Examples of the men described in this valuable book are William Lee, who worked closely with George Washington through most of the Revolution and became one of the general’s closest companions, and James Forten, a patriot who worked aboard an American privateer to prey on British shipping and who later, as an inventor and manufacturer, became one of the wealthiest men in Philadelphia.  While Davis focuses on the deeds of black men, he does give a brief nod to the important role of black women during the Revolution, including Phyllis Wheatley, a poet with sharp words on religious, moral, and political issues.

Burke Davis has created an informative and well-research historical account using available resources from historical societies, museums, university special collections, foundations, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, newspaper articles, and various published books.  This book will make a useful addition to any non-fiction collection that provides young students with a complete and racially-balanced account of the American Revolution.

Review by:  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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