July Fourth is Independence Day in the United States. A celebration of the freedom fought for and won by those escaping religious persecution in another country. If you are like most people, July 4th brings forth images of Paul Revere, Minutemen, fifes, drums, and British in red uniforms. It also brings forth thoughts of fireworks, barbecues, and family celebrations. But what about those freedom fighters who were forcibly brought to this country and enslaved by the very people who professed freedom for all mankind? What about those who fought for freedom in their own land alongside those who took it and slaughtered them in the name of colonization?
This Fourth of July, I challenge you to remember these forgotten patriots. If you think that they were few and far between, you would be wrong. The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution has produced a prodigious work, 854 pages to be exact, listing names of those African Americans and Native Americans that fought in the War for Independence. Entitled Forgotten Patriots African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War, A Guide to Service, Sources and Studies, (ISBN 978-1-892237-10-1) this book is a wealth of information about those forgotten patriots who fought for freedom in this country.
Who were the forgotten patriots in your communities? If you do not know, maybe it is about time you found out. This Fourth of July, I will remember Cato Wood, a black man from what is now Arlington, Massachusetts, a man remembered by barely a one sentence notation in the history of that town. I will also remember Cuff Dole. I came across his name while researching colonial records in Essex County. Again, one sentence mentioning a sluice he dug for an area mill and no mention of his service to this country. And of course, I will remember Prince Estabrook. Commemorated in a speech by AAHGS-NE member Charles Price a re-enactor who has portrayed Estabrook in the Lexington, Massachusetts Battle on Lexington Green for over 30 years, his dignified portrayal resulted in a monument being erected this year in memory of Estabrook’s service to this country – over 230 years after the fact.
Regardless of their own situations, these men fought for the freedoms that we hold dear. They fought for something bigger than themselves, for a dream that they had for the future – an American dream. They had a dream that “…one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”” One hundred and eighty-seven years before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave that famous speech in Washington, D.C. in front of the Lincoln Memorial; these men were working towards a dream. I think they deserve to be remembered, don’t you?