Last updated: July 8, 2015
African Americans in the American Revolution
- Grade Level:
- Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
- Social Studies
- Lesson Duration:
- 90 Minutes
- Common Core Standards:
- 6.RI.1, 6.RI.2, 6.RI.3, 6.RI.4, 6.RI.10, 7.RI.1, 7.RI.2, 7.RI.3, 7.RI.4, 7.RI.10, 8.RI.1, 8.RI.2, 8.RI.3, 8.RI.4, 8.RI.10
- State Standards:
- South Carolina State Social Studies Standards:
8-2.4 Compare the perspectives of different groups of South Carolinians during the American
8-2.5 Summarize the role of South Carolinians in the course of the American Revolution.
- Thinking Skills:
- Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.
*What were duties and responsibilities of African-American soldiers in the American Revolution?
*How did African Americans make significant contributions during the American Revolution?
In “The Negro in the American Revolution,” Benjamin Quarles said the African-American was “a participant and a symbol. He was active on the battlefronts and behind the lines . . . The Negro’s role in the Revolution can best be understood by realizing that his major loyalty was not to a place nor to a people, but to a principle. Insofar as he had freedom of choice, he was likely to join the side that made him the quickest and best offer in terms of those ‘unalienable rights’ of which Mr. Jefferson wrote.
It is estimated that about 5,000 African-Americans served in the war. Many African-Americans fought with the British since the British commander, Sir Henry Clinton, offered freedom to slaves who would fight for the King. The British used runaway slaves as guides, spies and laborers (carpenters, blacksmiths, etc.). By using the African-Americans as laborers, whites were free to be soldiers.
A number of black soldiers fought in the patriot ranks at the Battle of Kings Mountain.Pension records indicate that five and possiblysix African-Americans fought for the Patriot cause.
*Materials for Students: a highlighter, pencil, paper
*Make one copy for each student of the following: African Americans in American Revolution Reading, Interview Planning Sheet, Interview Observation Notes Sheet, and the Design a Stamp Template.
*Optional: Provide computer or internet access for students to use for additional research into their hero interviews.
Use to give student an understanding of African Americans during the Revolutionary period.
Use to prepare for the mock interviews. Students should be working in groups of three or four, but each have their own copy.
Use to take notes on the interviews of other groups. These notes will be used in the selection of an African American from the Revolutionary period to honor with a stamp.
*Say to students, "We have been learning about the American Revoluton for several days. Today, we will be choosing a hero or leader from the Revolutionary period to honor with a stamp. Who are some heroes or leaders you can think of from the Revolutionary period?" Students will likely list many leaders that are all white and probably men.
*Ask the students, "What do all of these people have in common?" Guide students to identify that these are mostly white men, who many of which are wealthy land-owners. Ask students what groups of people are missing from the list. Answers could include but are not limited to women, immigrants, African-Americans, and non-land owners. Tell students that today they will be learning about heroes in one of those groups during the American Revolution: African Americans.
1. Hand out one copy the reading entitled "African Americans in the American Revolution" to each student.
2. Tell students they will be reading the passage two times. The first time, they should read the passage for understanding. Students should underline the words or phrases that seem important. Students should circle words or phrases that are confusing or unfamiliar. Give students 3-5 minutes to complete the first reading.
3. Ask students to get with a partner and share what they think are the big ideas of the reading. Also with the partner, look at any circled words or phrases to determine their meaning. As a class, discuss the overall message or purpose of the passage, as well as clarify confusing vocabulary.
4. Now, ask the students to reading through the passage for a second time using a highlighter. The students should highlight the names of African American heroes of the American Revolution discussed in the text. When complete, students should work with their partner to rank the top three heroes they would be most excited learning more about. That set of partners will get together with another set of partners (making a group of four) and choose one African American hero of the American Revolution to focus on for a mock television or radio interview. Groups should not pick the same hero.
5. After students have chosen their hero, hand out the "Interview Planning" sheet to each student. Give students 20 minutes to plan their interview and ten minutes to rehearse. The students will present their interview to the class with all group members participating in some way. Roles within the interview could be the hero, interviewers, or guest stars such as a family member or another soldier. Students who do not feel comfortable speaking could be a "director" that holds up cue cards and gives directions. Encourage students to get creative and name their news channel. Also, encourage students to do additional research into their hero's background and accomplishments.
6. Groups will present their interviews to the class. While groups are presenting, the other students should complete the "Interview Observation Notes". Explain to students that they will be choosing from the interviews one African American hero to honor with a stamp and the students will not be able to choose the hero they focused on for the interview. The students should take good notes so they will be prepared for the stamp design.
7. After all groups have presented, each individual student will choose one African American hero to honor with a stamp design. After each individual student has chosen their hero, hand the student the "Design a Stamp Template".
8. Give the students fifteen minutes to design their stamp and write up their justification for the choice to Congress.
Optional: Mail the stamp designs and justifications to your local Congressman or Senator.
*Freeman - A person who is not enslaved and entitled to full political and civil rights.
*Immigrants - A person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.
*Medallion - A piece of jewelry in the shape of a medal, typically worn as a pendant.
*Parole - The release of a prisoner temporarily or permanently before the completion of a sentence, on the promise of good behavior.
*Pension - A regular payment made during a person's retirement from an investment fund to which that person or their employer has contributed during their working life.
*Pressgang - To force a person into military or naval service
*Slave - A person who is owned by another and forced to do labor wihtout full political and civil rights.
Assessment MaterialsDesign a Stamp Honoring an African American Hero
Use this template for students to create and justify the choice of an African American hero for a stamp.
Design a Stamp Template
Supports for Struggling Learners
*Heterogenous pairs after first reading to ensure comprehension.
*Annotated copy of the reading for students who struggle with academic vocabulary.
*Sentence starters for the stamp design justification.
*Ask students to flesh out short justification into a professional business letter to the local Congressman or Senator
*Students can research heroes from one of the other groups often neglected by history, such as women or immigrants.
*Kings Mountain National Military Park: https://www.nps.gov/kimo/index.htm
*This Day in History Battle of Kings Mountain: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/battle-of-kings-mountain
*Learn NC Battle of Kings Mountain: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-revolution/4268
Related Lessons or Education Materials
The "Tactics in the Battle of Kings Mountain" lesson gives more background on the battle in general and the actions by both Patriots and Loyalist forces.