Book Review-2298467

Benjamin Quarles, the author of the book, “The Negro in the American Revolution” investigates a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of American history: the role of African Americans during the Revolutionary War. In his book, Quarles tries to illuminate this neglected facet of the struggle for independence, exploring the experiences of Black individuals who strongly participated in various capacities during this pivotal period. The book consists of 10 different chapters, each researching different aspects or characteristics of the involvement of African Americans in the Revolutionary War (Quarles).

 In Chapter 1, “Uncertain Trumpet,” the author sets the stage by deeply examining the initial reluctance of American revolutionaries to recruit Black soldiers because of the fears of arming potential insurgents. For example, the author supports this with evidence from Washington’s correspondence dated July 1775, where he successfully expresses issues about the impact of arming Black soldiers on slaveholding states. This evidence clearly illustrates the prevailing or dominant attitudes towards African American participation in the military at the time in a negative manner. Chapter 2 named as, “Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment,” explores the complexities of race and loyalty faced by the African Americans, highlighting how British promises of freedom enticed many enslaved individuals from African America to join their ranks. Throughout succeeding chapters, such as Chapter 3, “The Negro and the Rights of Man,” the author meticulously explores the evolving attitudes towards African Americans, from debates over their basic human rights as men to the shifting policies regarding their enlistment in Chapter 4, “Policy Reversal above the Potomac.” And so on till chapter 10 (Quarles).

The author’s meticulous research and clear narrative style are the biggest strengths of the book, according to me as a reviewer, making it more and more accessible to both scholars and other general readers like me. His in-depth exploration of primary sources provides lots of valuable and meaningful insights into the surviving experiences of Black individuals (African Americans) during the Revolutionary War. However, the book infrequently lacks broader contextualization, focusing mainly on the experiences of African Americans without fully integrating or explaining their backstories into the larger narrative of the Revolutionary War. Apart from this limitation, some readers (including me) may also find Quarles’s analysis somewhat limited by his focus on military contributions, overlooking or extra-focusing on other important aspects of African American participation, such as their roles or characters in the civilian sphere (Quarles).

As a reader or reviewer, I strongly appreciated Mr. Quarles’s (author of the book) dedication to bringing marginalized voices to the lead of historical discourse. His small representation of the complexities surrounding race and loyalty adds depth and insights to our understanding of the Revolutionary era. However, on the other hand, I also found myself wishing for more exploration or detailed analysis of the social as well as political implications of African American participation beyond the battlefield. Overall, I personally believe that this book strongly serves as a valuable and meaningful contribution to the study of American history, shedding some light on its history and peoples who affected by Revolutionary War.


Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the American revolution. UNC Press Books, 2012.