J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, March 02, 2012

Conversation on Washington and African-Americans, 3 March

My conversation with Marty Blatt of the National Park Service on African-Americans in the American Revolution has been moved back an hour to 1:00 P.M. this Saturday, 3 March. This will let everyone (most importantly, me) have a good lunch first.

The Park Service’s announcement of this event is:
Join Boston National Historical Park Historian Marty Blatt and writer J. L. Bell at the 15 State Street Visitor Center for a discussion on African Americans and their role in the Revolutionary War. Recent research at the Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site has yielded information on how General George Washington struggled and ultimately decided to allow African Americans to serve in the army in 1775.
That “recent research” has been my major project for years now. Some of it grew from items here on Boston 1775, some fed into blog postings, and some I’ve shared in other venues. But this is the first time I’ll talk a length about how Gen. Washington’s thinking changed on the question of black men as soldiers, and thus sooner or later as people like all others, during the first year of the war.

Since the research project stops with Washington’s departure from Massachusetts in April 1776, I won’t have much new to say about the later years of the war or Washington’s political career. But the end of 1775 was definitely a turning point for that Virginia planter. We should also get into the stories of the black people who lived at Washington’s Cambridge headquarters in the 1770s and how they sought liberty in different ways.

TOMORROW: The most intriguing man of African ancestry to visit Washington in Cambridge.

(The thumbnail above comes courtesy of the National Park Service.)

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