Blacks on the New York Waterfront During the American Revolution

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The American Revolution created opportunities for some enslaved Blacks to obtain freedom. Self-interested economic and military reasons prompted the British to declare free, all enslaved blacks in America who joined them in New York harbor as Royal Navy seamen, British privateersmen or as laborers in the British Army – thus providing blacks with financial independence. But, in a foreshadowing of 20th century racial conflicts on New York’s waterfront, black maritime workers found themselves largely shut out of dockyard work due to white artisans’ resistance.

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