Tomorrow is the 4th of July or as Americans have come to know it as Independence Day. It is well known what this day celebrates- our hard fought independence from the British almost 250 years ago - and the many people who played key roles in the fight. We frequently think of our founding fathers as the central figures in the war. What many may not know, though, is that there were also African Americans and women who played a critical part in securing our freedom.
Salem Poor is one of those people. He was born in Massachusetts as a slave, but at the age of 22, had saved up a year’s salary so that he could buy his freedom. Once freed, he enlisted in the army and this would bring him his notoriety only a year later. Poor was instrumental in the Battle of Bunker Hill- an important battle in the fight for America’s freedom- defeating several British officers and inspiring paintings commemorating the victory.
Also Massachusetts-born was former slave Peter Salem. He was not only an important soldier in the Battle of Bunker Hill, but also in the entire American Revolutionary War. At the time of his recruitment, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety only recruited free African Americans. He traded his life as a slave to fight in the army.
Women such as Margaret Corbin also played major roles in the war. Corbin and her husband helped in defending Fort Washington, but when he got injured, she took over, manning the canon. She did not hesitate to take it upon herself to do a job meant for two.
These and many other men and women are often forgotten in history. But, do not let that happen. Teach your children about this day and all the different people who risked their lives to fight for a cause they profoundly believed in. It makes our history much more vibrant and interesting by doing so.