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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

February 27, 2018: Inclusive Figures: Revolutionary Slaves



[Last week I followed up my Valentine’s Day talk on Exclusion & Inclusion: The Battle to Define America by highlighting exclusionary moments and histories. This week I’ll flip the script and highlight some of the inspiring inclusive figures on whom my book will likewise focus!]
On four figures who together embody the vital contributions African American slaves made to the American Revolutionary effort.
1)      Crispus Attucks: I had just started to learn more about Attucks when I wrote that hyperlinked post, and will be the first to admit that I seriously downplayed there the fact that he was a fugitive slave, having run away from his Natick master ten years before his participation in the Boston Massacre (on which more as part of next week’s anniversary series). Perhaps I thought that fact was already well-known, but I don’t believe it is (certainly my sons have not learned it when they’ve studied the Boston Massacre and Attucks as part of their elementary school social studies units). And in any case, Attucks’ birth and childhood in slavery (as the son of an African father and Native American mother, both themselves slaves), as well as his subsequent escape from it and decade of life as a fugitive slave, seem to me to be crucial to understanding his role in one of the most significant pre-Revolution protests.
2)      Phillis Wheatley: On the other hand, I said most everything I’d want to say about Wheatley’s Revolutionary poems and arguments, and their close ties to her experiences of slavery, in that hyperlinked post!
3)      Elizabeth Freeman and Quock Walker: And ditto my thoughts in that hyperlinked post on Freeman and Walker, and the way they and their allies put the Revolution’s ideas and documents to use to gain their freedom and forever change Massachusetts and America. I know of no single story that better models my vision of an inclusive America than does that one!
Next inclusive figures tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Other inspiring figures you’d highlight?

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