If you’ve taken elementary level history classes, chances are you’ve at least heard of Crispus Attucks, the Black man famous for being the first person killed by British soldiers in the Boston Massacre. Historians are unsure if Attucks — who is sometimes incorrectly called “Christmas” — was a freed man or an escaped slave. Either way, after taking two British bullets in the chest and becoming one of the first casualties of the Revolutionary War, his body was laid in state, and he’s since been heralded as one of the heroes of the American revolution.
Fast-forward nearly 250 years and it seems many Americans have forgotten about the Blacks who fought and died in the Revolutionary War. In all, about 5,000 Black soldiers fought in the war, and many of them died. But the history books and students everywhere seem to have forgotten that fact, with Revolutionary War memorials focusing mostly on people like George Washington and Paul Revere. Thankfully, today, in North Carolina of all places, at least one Black man is being remembered for his service in the war that would eventually yield these United States.
Chaz Moore is a 30-year-old fireman in Raleigh who will this month become North Carolina’s first Black member of the Sons of the American Revolution, a club for direct male descendants of Revolutionary War soldiers. Moore recently discovered that his ancestor, Toby Gilmore, was kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery at the age of 16. To earn his freedom, Gilmore agreed to fight for American independence.
There’s perhaps no greater reminder that the contribution Blacks made to the Revolutionary War is undervalued than by Moore’s admission that, until he found out about his forebear Gilmore, he wasn’t even sure Blacks fought in the revolution. “Growing up, I wasn’t even certain that African-Americans even fought in the Revolutionary War,’’ Moore told the Boston Globe. “It’s not something that’s talked about. Then to say, well, yeah, they did, and you’re a direct descendant of one was unbelievable, humbling. I had to redefine patriotism for myself.’’
If the only heroes you remember from studying early America are white, then maybe it’s time for you to redefine patriotism, too.
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(Photo: AP Photo | Gerry Broome)