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Slavery and the American Revolution
A defense of slavery was the prime revolutionary motivator for the South. The North acquiesced

It has been over 10 years since the publication of Slave Nation, a book that traces how the defense of slavery was a major motivator for the American Revolution. American intellectuals and their educational system have mostly ignored it, despite approval from one of the top scholars on slavery and the American Revolution, David Brion Davis at Yale: ''A radical, well-informed, and highly original reinterpretation of the place of slavery in the American War of Independence.''  AfroCubaWeb tracks this and related books, such as those by Gerald Horne, on this page. This topic should go a long ways to bring out America hypocrisy about "freedom" and "liberty".

Slave Nation, Blumrosen & Blumrosen. Intro by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, 2006

Alfred BlumrosenRuth BlumrosenThis carefully documented, chilling history presents a radically different view of the profound role that slavery played in the founding of the republic, from the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution through the creation of the Constitution. The book begins with a novel explanation about the impact of the Somerset Case on the founding of the republic.

In 1772, a judge sitting in the High Court in London declared slavery "so odious" that it could not exist at common law and set the conditions which would consequently result in the freedom of the 15,000 slaves living in England. This decision eventually reached America and terrified slaveholders in the collection of British colonies, subject to British law. The predominantly southern slave-owners feared that this decision would cause the emancipation of their slaves. It did result in some slaves freeing themselves.

To ensure the preservation of slavery, the southern colonies joined the northerners in their fight for "freedom" and their rebellion against England. In 1774, at the First Continental Congress John Adams promised southern leaders to support their right to maintain slavery. As Eleanor Holmes Norton explains in her introduction, "The price of freedom from England was bondage for African slaves in America. America would be a slave nation."

Thomas Jefferson relied on this understanding when carefully crafting the stirring words of the Declaration of Independence. In 1787, about the time Benjamin Franklin proposed the first affirmative action plan, negotiations over a new Constitution ground to a halt until the southern states agreed to allow the prohibition of slavery north of the Ohio River. The resulting Northwest Ordinance created the largest slave-free area in the world. Slave Nation is a fascinating account of the role slavery played in the foundations of the United States that traces this process of negotiation through the adoption of Northwest Ordinance in 1787, and informs our understanding of later events including the Civil War and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolution, Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen
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Contemporary criticism of American slave owners and "revolutionaries"top

"Here are some early criticisms of slavery in the US to whip out when liberals attempt to rationalize the founding fathers being slaveholders as just 'what things were like back then.' Their peers knew this was wrong at the time and said so." -- Adrienne Bin-Wahad

“It affords a curious spectacle to observe, that the same people who talk in a high strain of political liberty, and who consider the privilege of imposing their own taxes as one of the inalienable rights of mankind, should make no scruple of reducing a great proportion of their fellow creatures into circumstances by which they are not only deprived of property, but almost of every species of right. Fortune perhaps never produced a situation more calculated to ridicule a liberal hypothesis, or to show how little the conduct of men is at the bottom directed by any philosophical principles.” -John Millar, The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks, 1779

‘How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of negroes?’ - Samuel Johnson, Taxation No Tyranny , 1775

‘The most clamorous advocates for liberty were uniformly the harshest and worst masters of slaves’, Jonathan Boucher, Notes & Queries, 1776

Early Anti-slavery Advocates in 18th-century Connecticut  6/1/2017 Connecticut History: "Some, however, became concerned that their own denunciations of tyranny and slavery rendered them hypocrites because they continued to enslave thousands of Africans and African Americans."

Questioning Slavery  12/1/1997 Reviews in History: "As co-editor for over a decade of the journal Slavery and Abolition, Walvin has witnessed at close quarters much of the recent research on slavery in the Americas. One of his skills lies in revealing to a non-specialist audience the directions of current trends in research in the field of slavery."

Founders on Race

The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, Gerald Horne, 2014

Gerald HorneThe successful 1776 revolt against British rule in North America has been hailed almost universally as a great step forward for humanity.  But the Africans then living in the colonies overwhelmingly sided with the British.  In this trailblazing book, Gerald Horne shows that in the prelude to 1776, the abolition of slavery seemed all but inevitable in London, delighting Africans as much as it outraged slaveholders, and sparking the colonial revolt. 

Prior to 1776, anti-slavery sentiments were deepening throughout Britain and in the Caribbean, rebellious Africans were in revolt.  For European colonists in America, the major threat to their security was a foreign invasion combined with an insurrection of the enslaved.   It was a real and threatening possibility that London would impose abolition throughout the colonies—a possibility the founding fathers feared would bring slave rebellions to their shores.  To forestall it, they went to war. 

The so-called Revolutionary War, Horne writes, was in part a counter-revolution, a conservative movement that the founding fathers fought in order to preserve their right to enslave others.  The Counter-Revolution of 1776 brings us to a radical new understanding of the traditional heroic creation myth of the United States.

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Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba during Slavery and Jim Crow, Gerald Horne, 2014

Gerald HorneThe histories of Cuba and the United States are tightly intertwined and have been for at least two centuries. In Race to Revolution, historian Gerald Horne examines a critical relationship between the two countries by tracing out the typically overlooked interconnections among slavery, Jim Crow, and revolution. Slavery was central to the economic and political trajectories of Cuba and the United States, both in terms of each nation’s internal political and economic development and in the interactions between the small Caribbean island and the Colossus of the North.
Horne draws a direct link between the black experiences in two very different countries and follows that connection through changing periods of resistance and revolutionary upheaval. Black Cubans were crucial to Cuba’s initial independence, and the relative freedom they achieved helped bring down Jim Crow in the United States, reinforcing radical politics within the black communities of both nations. This in turn helped to create the conditions that gave rise to the Cuban Revolution which, on New Years’ Day in 1959, shook the United States to its core. 

Based on extensive research in Havana, Madrid, London, and throughout the U.S., Race to Revolution delves deep into the historical record, bringing to life the experiences of slaves and slave traders, abolitionists and sailors, politicians and poor farmers. It illuminates the complex web of interaction and infl uence that shaped the lives of many generations as they struggled over questions of race, property, and political power in both Cuba and the United States.  

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Slavery and the American Revolution: Bibliographytop

Leonard L. Richards, The Slave Power (2000)
Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Slaveholding Republic (2001)
Paul Finkelman, Slavery and the Founders (2001)
Garry Wills, “Negro President”: Jefferson and the Slave Power (2003)
Alfred W. Blumrosen, and Ruth G. Blumrosen’s Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolution (2005)
Lawrence Goldstone, Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits, and the Struggle for the Constitution (2005)
Gary Nash, Forgotten Fifth: African Americans in the Age of Revolution (2006)
Robin L. Einhorn, American Taxation, American Slavery (2008)

National Anthem

Colin Kaepernick Is Righter Than You Know: The National Anthem Is a Celebration of Slavery  8/28/2016 The Intercept: "Almost no one seems to be aware that even if the U.S. were a perfect country today, it would be bizarre to expect African-American players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Why? Because it literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans." 

Slavery and Texastop

The AlamoAfro-Mexican President Guerrero abolished slavery in 1829.  American colonists in Texas, largely Southerners, managed to get exceptions and brought in slaves, but the exceptions were tenuous as all the leaders of Mexico were anti slavery and Mexico's independence in 1821 was won thanks to an army that had many Africans and Native Americans in it, like the Mambi army in Cuba. As with the foundation of the US, the cry for Independence in Texas was substantially motivated by a desire to keep those slaves, and slavery was enshrined in the 1836 Texas Constitution. When the Mexican Army came to suppress the Texas rebellion and retake the Alamo, they had explcit orders to free the slaves, much as the British offered run away slaves positions in their army during the Revolutionary War. The history of Texas parallels that of the US with respect to the rampant hypocrisy of claiming Independence, Freedom, and Liberty when the independence movement was an effort by colonialists to keep their privileges and maintain slavery.

The Alamo: America’s Shrine to White Supremacy  11/6/2015 Counterpunch: "One of Phil Collins’ Alamo heroes is Jim Bowie, famed for the development of a long-bladed knife which became known as the “Bowie knife.” Less well-known is that shortly after the War of 1812, Bowie went into business as a slave trader and was a partner in a Louisiana sugar plantation. Bowie later moved to Texas where he was a leader of one of the most extreme group of expansionists. The fever dreams of the Texians didn’t die at the Alamo. On March 1, 1837 the United States formally recognized the Republic of Texas, which joined the U.S. as a slave state in 1845."

Slavery and the Myth of the Alamo  5/28/2012 History News Network: "The Mexican armies that entered the department to put down the rebellion had explicit orders to free any slaves that they encountered, and so they did. The only person spared in the retaking of the Alamo was Joe, the personal slave of William Travis.'

Alamo was a battle for slavery  2/7/2009 Mondoweiss: "John Quincy Adams, two months after the Alamo, argued on the floor of the U.S. House that "the war now raging in Texas is a Mexican civil war and a war for the re-establishment of slavery where it was abolished.""

Forget the Alamo!  4/8/2004 Counterpunch: "Contrary to popular mythology and the spurious history of White Man Movie Fiction, the story of the Alamo is not a story of a fight for freedom. It is the story of a fight for slavery. It is important for us to look honestly at our cultural and historical mythologies so that we can learn from them. By perpetuating the old myths, we create a stagnant and dangerous platform which prevents our cultural and artistic growth as a society."

Native Latin American Contribution to the Colonization and Independence of Texas  6/30/1935 Sons of Dewitt Colony: "To Austin and the men of his time, the rapid development of Texas seemed absolutely dependent upon the right of the colonists to introduce negro laborers in the form of slaves or contract servants. To them, it was a practical question of physical energy. The country was a wilderness and there was no labor for hire. Many leaders of the new Mexican nation, however, were saturated with the liberal philosophy of the French Revolution, and slavery was abhorrent to them. Austin, by great exertion and skillful lobbying, obtained the legalization of slavery in his first colony of three hundred families, but children born to slave parents in Texas were to be free at the age of fourteen. This law was passed in January, 1823, during the reign of Iturbide. In July, 1824, however, the Republican Congress passed a law forbidding the further introduction of slaves into any part of the Mexican Republic."

Slavery in Early Texas  12/1/1898 Sons of Dewitt Colony: "Under the Spanish rule in Mexico negro slavery was tolerated and protected. The conditions, however, were so unfavorable that the institution never obtained a secure foothold, and was almost unknown outside of Vera Cruz and the hot lands. Even in the most favorable localities and after the introduction of cane growing, the slaves formed no considerable element in the population of the country. As late as 1793, according to Humboldt, there were not more than nine or ten thousand in all New Spain. [In a total population of 3005, December 31, 1792, there were 34 negroes and 415 mulattoes; no mention is made of slaves. Census of Texas, Texas Archives, No. 345] H. G. Ward, the British agent in Mexico in 1825-27, believed that the number did not exceed six thousand in 1793, and that it continued to decrease till 1827. So many were manumitted, and so many received their freedom during the long struggle for independence by joining the ranks of the patriot army, that Ward thought he was justified in stating that there is now hardly a single slave in the central portion of the republic."

THE WAR IN TEXAS  12/1/1847 Sons of Dewitt Colony: by Benjamin Lundy - "the Texian revolution was concerted by the planters and slave speculators in the southern states ever since the first permission given by the Spanish authorities to Moses Austin, of Missouri, in the year 1820, to introduce 300 families, professing the Catholic religion, as colonists of grant of land which lie obtained on this express condition. From that time to the Present moment the aggressions have been on the part of the colonists, under the sanction of the southern speculators; and riot until their purpose of getting a physical force into the province which should detach it from Mexico, and make it a slaveholding state, became flagrant and undisguised, the settlers, ever received aught but protection encouragement, toleration and kindness, from the Mexican government."

Links for Slavery and Texastop

African Americans - For free people of color, the Republic of Texas was a rock and a hard place, Bullock Museum

"No free person of African descent, either in whole or in part, shall be permitted to reside permanently in the Republic of Texas without the consent of Congress." - 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas

Most historians believe that African American history in Texas begins with Estevanico, a North African Muslim who came to Texas with the Spanish expeditions in the 1520s. By 1792, free blacks and mulattos made up 15% of the population of Spanish Texas. Free peoples of color prospered as Mexican citizens. They owned land, built successful businesses, and married whomever they loved, regardless of skin color. However, when Mexico lost Texas, people of color lost their rights and their place.


The U.S. is Not a Democracy, It Never Was  12/13/2017 Counterpunch: "What will be seen, however, if this record is soberly and methodically inspected, is that a country founded on elite, colonial rule based on the power of wealth—a plutocratic colonial oligarchy, in short—has succeeded not only in buying the label of “democracy” to market itself to the masses, but in having its citizenry, and many others, so socially and psychologically invested in its nationalist origin myth that they refuse to hear lucid and well-documented arguments to the contrary."

Roy Moore: Last Time America Was 'Great' Was During 'Slavery'  12/7/2017 Newsweek: "At a campaign event earlier this year, an audience member asked Moore for his opinion on when the last time America was "great." Moore responded: "I think it was great at the time when families were united—even though we had slavery—they cared for one another…Our families were strong, our country had a direction." The individual who asked the question was among the few African-Americans in attendance at the rally, according to the Los Angeles Times."

Alfred W. Blumrosen, Eminent Rutgers Expert on Discrimination Law, Dies at 86  7/23/2015 Rutgers: “Although it seems that the Justice did not attribute the doctrine to Al with affection or approval,” says Chen, “there are, I imagine, many colleagues who read the dissent with no small amount of satisfaction, as acknowledgement – however grudging – of the enormous impact that Al had on the development of anti-discrimination law in this country.”

Thoughts on “Slave Nation”  4/16/2015 Scott Ainsley: "Throughout their work and married lives, the Blumrosens asked themselves, “Why has race always been such an issue in America?” It is a powerful question."

Review of Gerald Horne. The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America.  2/1/2015 American Historical Review: " one is to explain the massive rise in British slavery and slave owning that occurred after the United States gained independence. At just the time slave owners were “pouring” into North America from the Caribbean due to fear of slave revolt, potential slave owners were flocking to the Caribbean to greatly enhance Britain's slave ownership and dominion south of Florida. Indeed, many American slave-owning loyalists, as Maya Jasanoff has recently illuminated, fled to the British Caribbean to continue as slave owners there."

Book Review - "The Counter-Revolution of 1776  7/24/2014 Portside: "What emerges from Gerald Horne's new book, "Counter-Revolution," is a picture of courage, heroism and betrayal. Most importantly, it is a history that accounts for the fact that so many "advances" of democracy in the United States have been at the expense of Africans and their descendants, people brought in chains to the shores of the United States. What emerges is a glimmer of understanding why white supremacy in the United States is so virulent."

“Counter-Revolution of 1776”: Was U.S. Independence War a Conservative Revolt in Favor of Slavery?  6/27/2014 Democracy Now: "Gerald Horne, one of the things that struck me in your book is not only your main thesis, that this was in large part a counterrevolution, our—the United States’ war of independence, but you also link very closely the—what was going on in the Caribbean colonies of England, as well as in the United States, not only in terms of among the slaves in both areas, but also among the white population. And, in fact, you indicate that quite a few of those who ended up here in the United States fostering the American Revolution had actually been refugees from the battles between whites and slaves in the Caribbean. Could you expound on that?"

White supremacy and slavery: Gerald Horne on the real story of American independence  5/30/2014 Salon: "Horne marshals considerable research to paint a picture of a U.S. that wasn't founded on liberty, with slavery as an uncomfortable and aberrant remnant of a pre-Enlightenment past, but rather was founded on slavery — as a defense of slavery — with the language of liberty and equality used as window dressing. If he's right, in other words, then the traditional narrative of the creation of the U.S. is almost completely wrong. Salon recently spoke with Horne about his book, why the conventional story of the U.S. founding has been so widely accepted, and what this new view of the American Revolution might mean for those still fighting white supremacy today. Our conversation is below and has been lightly edited for clarity and length."

The Second Amendment Was Ratified to Preserve Slavery  1/15/2013 Truth Out: "The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the framers knew the difference -- see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote. Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason and James Madison were totally clear on that... and we all should be too. In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states."

Slavery and the American Revolution  7/4/2012 Facing South: "Total estimated number of African Americans who escaped, died or were killed during the American Revolution: 100,000"

Was the American Revolution Fought to Save Slavery?  5/23/2011 Counterpunch: "As Schama notes, international news about slavery and legal decisions made in Britain, for example, spread like wild fire through the slave populations of the South in the late 18th century. By the time of the Revolutionary War, the Black community in the South and throughout the country, in fact, were aware of the political posturing and opportunities they perceived for gaining their freedom."

Was Slavery a Cause of the Revolutionary War? Yes. (Book Review of SLAVE NATION))  6/9/2009 Daily Kos: "The main point of their book is that the American colonists-particularly Southern colonists-were afraid that the British government would abolish slavery. And that this fear was a major reason for the colonists' desire to break away from Great Britain."

Was Slavery a Cause of the Revolutionary War? Yes.  6/8/2009 All Other Persons: "Truth hurts. And this might be one of the more hurtful truths an American can learn: a major reason for the Revolutionary War was the protection of slavery. That’s not something they teach in the schools. But our history lessons might look different in the future, if more people read the book Slave Nation: How Slavery United The Colonies And Sparked The American Revolution, by Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen."

Reading the Founders’ Minds  6/28/2007 New York Review of Books: "Indeed, there is hardly a book now written about the founding of the nation that does not place the problem of slavery at its center. So in recent years we have had Leonard L. Richards’s The Slave Power (2000); Don E. Fehrenbacher’s The Slaveholding Republic (2001); Paul Finkelman’s Slavery and the Founders (2001); Garry Wills’s “Negro President”: Jefferson and the Slave Power (2003); Alfred W. Blumrosen’s and Ruth G. Blumrosen’s Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolution (2005); and Gary Nash’s Forgotten Fifth: African Americans in the Age of Revolution (2006). Now we have these additional two books under review to help satisfy the seemingly insatiable desire of many historians today to place slavery at the heart of America’s origins."

Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies & Sparked the American Revolution  12/1/2006 Zinn Education Project: "To ensure the preservation of slavery, the southern colonies joined the northerners in their fight for “freedom” and their rebellion against England. In 1774, at the First Continental Congress John Adams promised southern leaders to support their right to maintain slavery. As Eleanor Holmes Norton explains in her introduction, “The price of freedom from England was bondage for African slaves in America. America would be a slave nation.”"

Slave Nation reviewed by Daniel C. Littlefield  3/1/2006 Journal of American History: "From at least the 1960s and in some cases long before that, a number of historians have argued about the complicity of the whole nation in the decision to perpetuate the peculiar institution. The distinctive contribution of Alfred W. Blumrosen and Ruth G. Blumrosen, who are lawyers rather than professional historians, is to make a connection between Parliament's Declaratory Act of 1766 and the Somerset decision of 1772, on the one hand, and the American Revolution, the “great compromise” at the Constitutional Convention, and the adoption of the Northwest Ordinance by the Continental Congress in 1787, on the other."

Slave Nation review  1/31/2005 Publisher's Weekly: "Blaming spotty records and backroom deal making, the authors often build their case on speculation, circumstantial evidence and interpretations of Revolutionary slogans about "liberty" and "property" as veiled references to slavery; they must often argue around documentary evidence showing Revolutionary leaders' preoccupation with other controversies that did not break down along North-South fault lines. Their reassessment of the centrality of slavery during the period is an intriguing one, but many historians will remain skeptical."

Slavery and the Revolutionary War  1/31/2005 Revolutionary War Net: "Perhaps the most well-known of the slaves who joined the British Ranks is Colonel Tye, originally Titus. He ran away from home at age 22 and joined the British Ethiopian Regiment. He took the title colonel; it wasn't given to him by the British army. His ruthless guerrilla raids with his small mixed-race band of mostly ex-slaves, called the Black Brigade, terrorized the Patriot colonies. They raided the small towns and villages, demoralizing the residents, and stealing supplies and food. Sometimes they specifically targeted their previous owners for revenge."

Links/Enlaces top

''A radical, well-informed, and highly original reinterpretation of the place of slavery in the American War of Independence.''-David Brion Davis, Yale University

Klu Klux Klan, Nazis, and other American White Supremacists

Somerset v Stewart



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