The W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University is hosting a lunchtime colloquium on Wednesday, 27 October, with Prof. Louis Wilson of Smith College on his research project, “Black Patriots in the American Revolutionary War from Rhode Island.”
He describes his project this way:
My project will attempt to reconstruct the personal history of many of the approximately eight hundred previously neglected African Americans and Native Americans who fought in various Rhode Island army units from 1775 to 1783. Using only primary documents, first, I am attempting to identify who these men were, and second to reconstruct many of the men’s personal histories before, during and after the conflict.This event will take place from noon to 1:30 P.M. in the Thompson Room, Barker Center, 12 Quincy Street in Cambridge. A question-and-answer period will follow Wilson’s lecture, and attendees can feel free to bring a lunch.
Ethnically the men are divided into essentially two groups—Native Americans (Indians) and African Americans (Black, Negro, Mulatto, Mustee and colored). Each served in various Rhode Island army units—local militia, state regiments and the Rhode Island Continental regiments.
I have collected information, often extensive personal information, on many of these men, including birth dates, places of birth, occupations, height, family status, wills, if they were enslaved or free at the time they enlisted, and if their discharge papers were signed by General George Washington.
The picture above shows a black soldier in the Rhode Island regiment, wearing the unit’s distinct uniform and cap, as painted by Jean-Baptiste Antoine de Verger (1762-1851) during the siege of Yorktown. Wilson aims to dig beyond such representations of a type to uncover the individual Rhode Islanders.