Last week, the internet was buzzing over Chris Rock’s tweet about the 4th of July. Some people took the satirical nature of the tweet so personal even though what he said was true and didn’t have ANY fallacy in it. Honestly, America has a serious problem acknowledging America’s past unless it makes us look like heroes or invoking some form of Magna Carta. People were upset with Chris Rock like he he was responsible for Seinfeld going off the air.
I decided to voice my opinion on the situation the day it happen on twitter (@diggame ) and was swiped with a few comments from random tweeters. I received some crazy tweets but also some ignorant misguided tweets who knew nothing about the American history they claimed to love so much. I tweeted that Chris Rock’s statements were even more ironic considering the many Black freeman and slaves who fought to bring this country Independence. The only black person that much of history even acknowledges in American Revolutionary history is Crispus Attucks. And as the comedy sketch from Wayne Brady showed that day wasn’t the best day for Mr. Attucks. This edition of Reversing a Culture of Ignorance I am going to highlight three men who fought for this nations independence even though the country they fought for didn’t look at people like them as having any rights besides being property. Thousands and thousands of Black Men who didn’t even have full rights as a citizen of this country laid their lives on the line in hopes that it would prove that they were men, not property and definitely not three-fifths of a man.
Salem Poor earned his place in history. during “the Battle of Charleston”-known today as the Battle of Bunker Hill. In this battle, African-Americans suffered more than 1,000 casualties. At the Battle of Bunker Hill, Salem Poor performed so well that fourteen officers sent a petition to the Massachusetts legislature declaring that he behaved like an experienced officer, as well as an excellent soldier and added that “a reward was due to so great and distinguished a character.”
Born into slavery, Samuel Poor was able to buy his freedom in 1769 for 27 Pounds. Poor soon married a free African-American woman named Nancy. In 1775, he enlisted in the militia, serving under Captain Benjamin Ames in Colonel James Fryes’ regiment, opposing the British troops stationed in Boston. Poor is best remembered today for his actions during the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, where he is credited with mortally wounding British Lieutenant Colonel James Abercrombie.
Poor’s valor and gallantry at the Battle of Bunker Hill caused 14 officers, including Colonel William Prescott, to cite him for heroism and petition the General Court of Massachusetts with the following statement:
The Reward due to so great and Distinguished a Character. The Subscribers beg leave to Report to your Honorable. House (Which We do in justice to the Character of so Brave a man) that under Our Own observation, we declare that A Negro Man Called Salem Poor of Col. Fryes Regiment, Capt. Ames. Company in the late Battle of Charleston, behaved like an Experienced Officer, as Well as an Excellent Soldier, to Set forth Particulars of his Conduct would be Tedious, We Would Only beg leave to say in the Person of this Negro Centers a Brave & gallant Soldier.
On July 10, 1775, George Washington decided to end the recruitment of African-Americans. On November 12, he issued orders prohibiting all black men from serving in the Continental Army. (Despite the ban on recruitment, those who had already been serving for some time were allowed to stay until this point.) On hearing of this, Lord Dunmore, who at the time was Governor of Virginia, offered freedom to all slaves willing to serve with the British. Washington, sensing the disaster that would almost surely result, immediately changed his position, at once ordering all recruiters to enlist any black men who wanted to fight.
Poor immediately re-enlisted and served with the Patriot forces in the Battle’s of Saratoga and Monmouth until March 1780, when he was apparently discharged. He is known to have retreated to the winter camp at Valley Forge and fought in the Battle of White Plains. Little is known of his post-war life.
Poor was honored with a stamp in the “Contributors to the Cause” series commemorating the United States Bicentennial in 1975.
Oliver Cromwell distinguished himself in the American Revolution; he served under and was decorated by General George Washington. His longevity in the service of his country in the Revolutionary War brought Cromwell to the attention of many. When Cromwell was discharged, Washington awarded him a medal as a private in the New Jersey Battalion. In addition, Washington personally signed his discharge papers on June 5, 1783 at Newburgh, New York. During his enlistment, which began in the first days of the war, Cromwell served almost seven years in several campaigns and left the Continental Army at the close of the war.
Oliver Cromwell was born on May 24, 1752, a freeman, in Black Horse (present-day Columbus), Burlington County, New Jersey. He was raised as a farmer, working with his maternal uncle, Thomas Hutchins. William C. Nell reports in an article in the Burlington Gazette that Page 150 Cromwell was of mixed parentage, “just half white.” There is no other recorded information on his early life. At the beginning of the war against England, Cromwell enlisted in the Continental Army and he served until the war ended.
Cromwell joined the 2nd New Jersey Regiment under the command of Colonel Israel Shreve when the war began with England . He received high praise for his military discipline, superior personal conduct, strong physical abilities, his dedication and sacrifice.
Private Cromwell first joined George Washington’s command in New York and then traveled through New Jersey to Pennsylvania . At Valley Forge he waited with the rest of the Continental Army for an opportunity to strike back at the enemy. He then traveled over the Delaware River to take part in the battles of Trenton and Princeton . The famous battle and crossing of the Delaware that people hold in high regard…Cromwell was there crossing as well. Later he fought in the battles of Brandywine, Monmouth and Yorktown .
Peter Salem was born a slave to Jeremiah Belknap at Framingham, Massachusetts about 1750. Belknap sold Salem to Lawson Buckminister some time before the Revolutionary War. Buckminister allowed Salem to enlist in the Massachusetts Minutemen. According to one story, his master freed him upon his enlistment. Another account states that Peter changed his name to Salem when he was freed. Some have attempted to link Peter’s last name with the Arabic “Saleem” (one who is peaceful); however there is no concrete evidence that this is the case.Salem served at Concord, Saratoga and Stony Point. He is traditionally given credit for the slaying of British Major Pitcairn at Bunker Hill. Pitcairn had ordered the colonists to surrender. Salem shot him in answer. In the ensuing confusion, the Americans were able to take the field. Pitcairn died of his wounds. The gun attributed to Salem’s deed is part of the museum collection at Bunker Hill. Peter Salem is believed to have killed British Major John Pitcairn, in the redoubt and at the height of combat.
From History of the Colored Race in America by William T. Alexander (1800), Salem is mentioned:
”At the battle of Bunker Hill, Peter Salem, also a colored man, who so gallantly manned and defended the slight breastworks, shot dead Major Pitcairn, of the British Marines, who, in the final struggle, had scaled the redoubt and shouted ‘The day is our own!’ and was commanding the patriots to surrender, thereby probably gaining the battle.”
Peter Salem lived at Leicester, Massachusetts and was a cane weaver after the American Revolution He died in a public poorhouse in 1816 at the age of 66. In 1882 monument was put up by the town of Framingham, Massachusetts at the Old Burying Ground (source)
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