October 1, 2003
Colonial Williamsburg Presents Brothers-In-Arms: Slavery, Freedom and the American Revolution Oct. 11-12
Colonial Williamsburg's annual Brothers-In-Arms weekend program, Oct. 11-12, recognizes the challenges, triumphs and contributions of free and enslaved African-Americans as loyalists and patriots of the American Revolution. "Brothers-in-Arms: Slavery, Freedom and the American Revolution," held this year at Colonial Williamsburg's Bassett Hall adjacent to the Historic Area, brings to life the contradiction of slavery and freedom through the extraordinary stories of enslaved people who became soldiers and camp followers fighting for their own freedom on both sides during the Revolution, the American and British.
Throughout the weekend guests are invited to visit the encampments where re-enactors of the Rhode Island Regiment 1781 (black patriots) and Dunmore's Royal Ethiopian Regiment 1775 (black loyalists) highlight a forgotten part of our nation's history and honor the contributions of African-Americans to the founding of our nation during the American Revolution. In an 18th-century military encampment guests can engage in conversations and learn of the diverse stories of risk, sacrifice and bravery of the free blacks, slaves, soldiers and women camp followers. The soldiers demonstrate their skills in cannon and firearm demonstrations; manual of arms drills, marching and firing drills; and military drills with guests. A military miniature display of the 1775 Battle of Great Bridge and the 1781 Siege of Yorktown highlights the actions of African-American soldiers.
Saturday, Oct. 11 features re-enactors of the Rhode Island Regiment as they prepare to advance to Yorktown in 1781. These black patriots fought for an emerging nation that struggled with the principles of liberty and the practice of American slavery. The state of Rhode Island purchased the freedom of slaves and enlisted them in the Continental Army forming the First Rhode Island Regiment, a black regiment in 1778.
The focus Sunday, Oct. 12 is on the re-enactors of Dunmore's Royal Ethiopian Regiment. The year 1775 was a time of unrest among Virginia's enslaved population. Virginia's last Royal Governor issued Dunmore’s Proclamation offering freedom to all able-bodied slaves willing and able to bear arms and join His Majesty's troops. The proclamation created an opportunity for enslaved people to seek freedom and become actively engaged in the Revolutionary War while fighting for the British. As a result, approximately 300 former slaves were armed and formed into Dunmore's Royal Ethiopian Regiment. Brazen across their chest were the words "Liberty to Slaves."
The Norfolk Southern Foundation has provided generous funding to support African-American military programming at Colonial Williamsburg.
Known worldwide as the nation's largest living history museum, Colonial Williamsburg recently was recognized as the "Best Historic Site" by readers of Southern Living magazine for the seventh straight year. Colonial Williamsburg is conveniently located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information or reservations, call toll-free (800) HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg on the Internet at www.ColonialWilliamsburg.org.
Lorraine C. Brooks