400 Years of Slavery – Sequel: Greatest Story Never Told

Go Lean Commentary

We just completed a special series of blog-commentaries for the month of August 2019, commemorating and commiserating the “400 Years of African Slavery” on the American mainland. Yes, slavery started in America in August 1619, and we are now at a pivotal anniversary; but this is not an occasion to be proud. This was NOT America’s finest moment.

For the New World – discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 – African Slavery was not exclusive to the United States of America (then British North America). No, there was a race to the bottom and every European power wanted to get in on it:

  • British – North America (today’s USA & Canada), Central America (today’s Belize), South America (today’s Guyana) and many Caribbean islands
  • Denmark-Norway – today’s US Virgin Islands
  • Dutch/Netherlands –  Caribbean islands,
  • Sweden – Caribbean Island of St. Bartholomew
  • French – North America (think: Louisiana Purchase)
  • Portugal – Brazil
  • Spanish – Latin America

They all explored and settled colonies in the New World, instituting slavery in its wake.

Wait, wait?! No Germany, Italy or Belgium? These nations also engaged the race to exploit Africa and African people, but limited their involvement to the continent, rather than the New World. (The 1885 Berlin Conference gathered all these European powers to “divvy up” the continent for their own self-interest).

In between the initial New World exploration and the Berlin Conference, the Enlightenment Movement – “Age of Enlightenment” between 1650 to 1700 – took hold. It brought a new definition of Freedom, Egalitarianism and Liberalism. The orthodoxy of enslaving indigenous people (in the Americas or in Africa) came to be viewed as barbaric and uncivilized – thanks to a lot of Women in the Abolition Movement. By the 1770’s, there was momentum in the British Parliament to disenfranchise Slavery and the Slave Trade.

This history set the stage for the Greatest Story Never Told

The 13 original colonies that rebelled and Declared their Independence from Great Britain, were not inclined to abandon slavery – not just yet. The official tagline of the Revolutionary War or America’s War for Independence (1776) was “a conflict of the American Patriots versus the British Loyalists”. But in actuality, the War could have been considered a Slavery Rebellion-in-Reverse; a revolt to maintain the orthodoxy of slavery.

Through out the New World, Slave Rebellions abounded – see Appendix below. But the enslaved African people were always a minority in America, while in the Caribbean territories, they were the majority population, on average 4:1, but in some cases, 7-to-1 … Africans versus European. This reality, and the accompanying injustice of slavery, was a “powder keg waiting to explode”. No one group had a greater incentive to fight than the slaves themselves. Many such slaves – 20,000 actually; see VIDEO below – joined in formal conflicts during the American Revolutionary War, fighting on the side of the British. See the full story here:

Title: The Ex-Slaves Who Fought with the British
Subtitle: While the patriots battled for freedom from Great Britain, upwards of 20,000 runaway slaves declared their own personal independence and fought on the side of the British.
By: Christopher Klein

When American colonists took up arms in a battle for independence starting in 1775, that fight for freedom excluded an entire race of people—African-Americans. On November 12, 1775, General George Washington decreed in his orders that “neither negroes, boys unable to bear arms, nor old men” could enlist in the Continental Army.

Two days after the patriots’ military leader banned African-Americans from joining his ranks, however, black soldiers proved their mettle at the Battle of Kemp’s Landing along the Virginia coast. They captured an enemy commanding officer and proved pivotal in securing the victory—for the British.

After the battle, Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia who had been forced to flee the capital of Williamsburg and form a government in exile aboard the warship HMS Fowey, ordered the British standard raised before making a startling announcement. For the first time in public he formally read a proclamation that he had issued the previous week granting freedom to the slaves of rebels who escaped to British custody.

Dunmore’s Proclamation was “more an announcement of military strategy than a pronouncement of abolitionist principles,” according to author Gary B. Nash in “The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America.” The document not only provided the British with an immediate source of manpower, it weakened Virginia’s patriots by depriving them of their main source of labor.

Much like Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, however, Dunmore’s Proclamation was limited in scope. Careful not to alienate Britain’s white Loyalist allies, the measure applied only to slaves whose masters were in rebellion against the Crown. The British regularly returned slaves who fled from Loyalist masters.

Dunmore’s Proclamation inspired thousands of slaves to risk their lives in search of freedom. They swam, dog-paddled and rowed to Dunmore’s floating government-in-exile on Chesapeake Bay in order to find protection with the British forces. “By mid-1776, what had been a small stream of escaping slaves now turned into a torrent,” wrote Nash. “Over the next seven years, enslaved Africans mounted the greatest slave rebellion in American history.”

Among those slaves making a break for freedom were eight belonging to Peyton Randolph, speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses, and several belonging to patriot orator Patrick Henry who apparently took his famous words—“Give me liberty, or give me death!”—to heart and fled to British custody. Another runaway who found sanctuary with Dunmore was Harry Washington, who escaped from Mount Vernon while his famous master led the Continental Army.

Dunmore placed these “Black Loyalists” in the newly formed Ethiopian Regiment and had the words “Liberty to Slaves” embroidered on their uniform sashes. Since the idea of escaped slaves armed with guns stirred terror even among white Loyalists, Dunmore placated the slaveholders by primarily using the runaways as laborers building forts, bridges and trenches and engaging in trades such as shoemaking, blacksmithing and carpentry. Women worked as nurses, cooks and seamstresses.

As manpower issues grew more dire as the war progressed, however, the British army became more amenable to arming runaway slaves and sending them into battle. General Henry Clinton organized an all-black regiment, the “Black Pioneers.” Among the hundreds of runaway slaves in its ranks was Harry Washington, who rose to the rank of corporal and participated in the siege of Charleston.

On June 30, 1779, Clinton expanded on Dunmore’s actions and issued the Philipsburg Proclamation, which promised protection and freedom to all slaves in the colonies who escaped from their patriot masters. Blacks captured fighting for the enemy, however, would be sold into bondage.

According to Maya Jasanoff in her book “Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World,” approximately 20,000 black slaves joined the British during the American Revolution. In contrast, historians estimate that only about 5,000 black men served in the Continental Army.

As the American Revolution came to close with the British defeat at Yorktown in 1781, white Loyalists and thousands of their slaves evacuated Savannah and Charleston and resettled in Florida and on plantations in the Bahamas, Jamaica and other British territories throughout the Caribbean. The subsequent peace negotiations called for all slaves who escaped behind British lines before November 30, 1782, to be freed with restitution given to their owners. In order to determine which African-Americans were eligible for freedom and which weren’t, the British verified the names, ages and dates of escape for every runaway slave in their custody and recorded the information in what was called the “Book of Negroes.”

With their certificates of freedom in hand, 3,000 black men, women and children joined the Loyalist exodus from New York to Nova Scotia in 1783. There the Black Loyalists found freedom, but little else. After years of economic hardship and denial of the land and provisions they had been promised, nearly half of the Black Loyalists abandoned the Canadian province. Approximately 400 sailed to London, while in 1792 more than 1,200 brought their stories full circle and returned to Africa in a new settlement in [Freetown,] Sierra Leone. Among the newly relocated was the former slave of the newly elected president of the United States — Harry Washington — who returned to the land of his birth.

Source: Posted August 22, 2018; retrieved August 29, 2019 from: https://www.history.com/news/the-ex-slaves-who-fought-with-the-british


VIDEO – History Stories – Slavery – https://www.history.com/news/the-ex-slaves-who-fought-with-the-british

The Greatest Story Never Told led to the origins of the City of Freetown, Sierra Leone in Africa. This tale features the full circle of those stakeholders, the Black Loyalists: enslaved in America; fought for the Royal Army; sought refuge in Canada, London and then repatriated to Africa.


Among the nameless masses of 20,000 people, was the 1 named-hero: Harry Washington, the ex-slave of the First American President George Washington. See his story here:

Harry Washington (c. 1740–1800) was known as a slave of Virginia planter George Washington, later the first President of the United States. He served as a Black Loyalist in the American Revolutionary War and was granted his freedom by the British and evacuated to Nova Scotia. In 1792 he joined nearly 1200 freedmen for resettlement in Sierra Leone, where they set up a colony of free people of color.

Harry had been born in Gambia and sold into slavery as a war captive. He was purchased by George Washington, who had plantations in Virginia. During the American Revolutionary War, Harry Washington escaped from slavery in Virginia and served as a corporal in the Black Pioneers attached to a British artillery unit. After the war he was among Black Loyalists resettled by the British in Nova Scotia, where they were granted land. There Washington married Jenny, another freed American slave.

In 1792 the couple were among more than 1,000 freedmen chosen to migrate to Sierra Leone, West Africa, where the British had established a new colony of people of African descent.

Source: Retrieved August 29, 2019 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Washington

“This” is the personification of the Greatest Story Never Told!

This is a sequel, a supplemental blog-commentary to the recently completed 5-part series from the movement behind the book Go Lean…Caribbean for August 2019. This series was composed to remember, reflect and reconcile the 400 Years of Slavery history in the American experience – 1619 until … today. The full series of these blogs-commentaries this month were cataloged as follows:

  1. 400 Years of Slavery: America, Not the first
  2. 400 Years of Slavery: International Day of Remembrance
  3. 400 Years of Slavery: Emancipation Day – Hardly ‘Free At Last’
  4. 400 Years of Slavery: Where is home?
  5. 400 Years of Slavery: Cop-on-Black Shootings in America’s DNA

This theme, discrediting the Moral High Ground in the history of American Patriotism, has been previously analyzed in numerous Go Lean commentaries; see a sample list here:

http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=12380 ‘4th of July’ and Slavery – Should ‘We’ Be Celebrating?
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=11870 America’s First Official Victims: Indian Termination Policy
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=11048 The Missing Model of Hammurabi: No one is Managing the ‘Strong versus the Weak’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=4971 A Lesson in History – Truth & Consequence of Royal Charters: Slavery

The Greatest Story Never Told is not very flattening of the United States of America. Nor does it extol honor on the British hierarchy – in the Peace Treaty to end the Revolutionary War, the British returned many runaway slaves to their previous masters. No, the heroes are the slaves who bravely fought for their chance of freedom for themselves and their children. The actuality of racial oppression, suppression and repression of being a Black Man in America was tragic. The biggest learned-lesson was:

Do not count on the White Man to bring you salvation.

This thought was embedded in the Go Lean book (Page 21), with this quotation:

The African Diaspora experience in the New World is one of “future” gratification, as the generations that sought freedom from slavery knew that their children, not them, would be the beneficiaries of that liberty. This ethos continued with subsequent generations expecting that their “children” would be more successful in the future than the parents may have been.

Reflecting on the history of 400 Years of Slavery in America, reminds us that we must do the heavy-lifting ourselves to reform and transform our society. We cannot count on the Americans nor the British, or any Europeans for that matter, to save us. We must save ourselves!


This is the purpose of the Go Lean roadmap; it features the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies for us to make the Caribbean member-states a better place to live, work and play … on our own. We urge every Caribbean stakeholder to lean-in to this roadmap. Yes we can!  🙂

About the Book
The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), for the elevation of Caribbean society – for all member-states. This CU/Go Lean roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion and create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to ensure public safety and protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines, including a separation-of-powers between the member-states and CU federal agencies.

The Go Lean book provides 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to execute so as to reboot, reform and transform the societal engines of Caribbean society.

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Who We Are
The movement behind the Go Lean book – a non-partisan, apolitical, religiously-neutral Community Development Foundation chartered for the purpose of empowering and re-booting economic engines – stresses that reforming and transforming the Caribbean societal engines must be a regional pursuit. This was an early motivation for the roadmap, as pronounced in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 12 – 13):

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xvi. Whereas security of our homeland is inextricably linked to prosperity of the homeland, the economic and security interest of the region needs to be aligned under the same governance. Since economic crimes … can imperil the functioning of the wheels of commerce for all the citizenry, the accedence of this Federation must equip the security apparatus with the tools and techniques for predictive and proactive interdictions.

xxiv. Whereas a free market economy can be induced and spurred for continuous progress, the Federation must install the controls to better manage aspects of the economy: jobs, inflation, savings rate, investments and other economic principles. Thereby attracting direct foreign investment because of the stability and vibrancy of our economy.

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Appendix – Revolts of the Caribbean Islands
Vincent Brown, a professor of History and of African and African-American Studies at Harvard, has made a study of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. In 2013, Brown teamed up with Axis Maps to create an interactive map of Jamaican slave uprisings in the 18th century called, “Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761, A Cartographic Narrative.”[14] Brown’s efforts have shown that the slave insurrection in Jamaica in 1760-61 was a carefully planned affair and not a spontaneous, chaotic eruption, as was often argued (due in large part to the lack of written records produced by the insurgents).[15]

Later, in 1795, several slave rebellions broke out across the Caribbean, influenced by the Haitian Revolution:

Source: Retrieved August 29, 2019 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demerara_rebellion_of_1823

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