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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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Alexander Hamilton Endorses Arming Slaves for the Revolutionary Cause

In 1778, General George Washington was approached with an interesting proposal from Lt. Col. John Laurens of South Carolina. The war in the southern colonies was going badly, in part because of a shortage of troops. Laurens's solution was to raise a [...]

A South Carolina Planter Endorses Plans for a Black Regiment

South Carolina planter and merchant, Henry Laurens was one of the richest men in colonial America. He amassed a fortune through buying and selling African slaves. Before the American Revolution, over 40% of Africans who survived transport to the [...]

A Planter Proposes A Slave Regiment in the Continental Army

In this letter, John Laurens asks his father, South Carolina slaveowner Henry Laurens, to give him several slaves in lieu of his inheritance, so that he can arm them to fight in the Continental army.

An African-American Soldier Asks for Equal Pay

James Henry Gooding, an African-American soldier fighting on Morris Island, South Carolina, writes to President Lincoln asking for better pay. Initially, black soliders in the Union Army were paid only $10 a month, from which $3 was deducted for [...]

An African-American Soldier Writes on Behalf of His Fellow Troops

John F. Shorter, an African-American solider writing on behalf of his fellow members of the Massachusetts 55th Regiment, addresses President Lincoln over the issue of unfair pay. Shorter charges that he and his fellow soldiers have received no pay [...]

A World War II Soldier Finds Segregation on Army Bases

Although over a million African-American men and women served during World War II, they continued to experience discrimination in the armed forces. In addition to being relegated to segregated combat units, often in service-and-supply capacities, [...]

Off to War

Over one million black men and women served in the military during the second World War. Artist William Henry Johnson's images of the war often pictured soldiers in training camps, but this piece shows a family separating as a soldier departs for [...]

"Pvt. Joe Louis Says - We're Going to do our part"

Joe Louis, the famous heavyweight boxing champion, served in the Army from 1940 to 1942, appearing in exhibition matches as well as this recruitment poster. A few years earlier, Louis had defeated German heavyweight Max Schmeling, a symbol of the [...]

Soldiers in Uniform

African Americans were faced with conflicting loyalties during the Revolutionary War, with some joining the British side in hopes of escaping from slavery, while many others remained loyal to the Patriot cause. While it's difficult to know the exact [...]

"True Sons of Freedom"

"True Sons of Freedom," by Charles Gustrine, is a poster depicting African-American soldiers fighting against the German army. Three hundred and fifty thousand African Americans participated in the segregated U.S. army during WWI, but they were [...]