Black Women in the American Revolutionary War

American Heroes

No actual documented records exist showing the sacrifice and hard work of the African American woman in the Revolutionary or Civil wars. Some diaries and oral histories give us valuable insight to know some of these brave and amazing women though. For most of them life went on as usual. They worked from daylight to dark, loved and laughed, submitted to awful abuses and still carried a love for this country that was trying to form a government that would fail them for centuries. They did not fail their country however. Here are some of their stories.

Source

Mammy Kate

Tales handed down orally through generations of the Heard family (who had owned Kate and other slaves) say Kate was very tall, standing at least six feet. She was a slave having been born of pure blooded Africans kidnapped from Africa and she said she was the daughter of an African king and her demeanor was indeed royal.

Mammy Kate gave birth to nine children and cared for the plantation owners and visitors, her own children and the master's children. She washed, cooked, cleaned and loved. She and her husband Daddy Jack went about life as best they could considering they were held in bondage. But it seems the Heard family treated them well and life was good for the family. Stephen Heard was Governor of Georgia but not afraid to fight for a chance at freedom for the Colonies. He was captured in the Battle of Kettle Creek and held prisoner in Augusta, sentenced to die by hanging for treason in February 1779.

Mammy Kate was not about to allow that to happen. She and Daddy Jack took two of Governor Heard's purebred Arabian horses and traveled to the prison. She offered her services as a servant, cooking food and washing clothing for the British troops. Once they knew and trusted her, Kate asked to take her master clean clothing as he was to be executed the next day. The guards agreed and allowed her in to the prisoner.

Kate carried the clothing and some food into the prison in a large basket and once inside somehow placed Mr. Heard inside it and carried him out. He was to all accounts a very small man and she was a big strong woman. It was an ingenious plan.

Daddy Jack was waiting in the woods with the horses and took the Governor to safety. The Heard family was so grateful that he manumitted her and gave her some land to stake a home of her own. But she remained on the plantation, likely because that was the only life she had ever known. The Governor died without a will but his son wrote and filed one, mentioning both Mammy Kate and Daddy Jack. She and Daddy Jack are buried together in the rock walls of Heardmont Cemetery in Elberton Georgia.

Mammy Kate was the first black woman to ever be honored as a patriot of the American Revolution in the State of Georgia. Daddy Jack was also acknowledged when the Daughters of the American Revolution laid wreaths at their graves.


sources: John McIntosh history on Elbert County and Sons of the American Revolution, the George Washington Chapter


Source

Phillis Wheatley

Slave, poet, patriot. Phillis Wheatley was all of these and more. She was kidnapped from West Africa as a very young child and brought to America. Bought at age seven by the Wheatley family she settled into life as a house slave for the family. It was common for slaves to use the family names of their owners and so she did, losing her African name and receiving a brand new name from her owners, being named after the ship that transported the captives .

Phillis was allowed to be educated with the Wheatley children and took to reading and writing immediately. She loved words and learned how to put them together in essays, poems and letters. The Wheatley's recognized that Phillis had an incredible intellect and encouraged her literary pursuits. She performed her servant's duties and still managed to write about her love for Christ and her new country, America.

Phillis read some of her poems aloud in public before society. Voltaire heard her speak and said Phillis had "very good English verse." But many white people refused to consider the words of a black slave woman. One man did though. General George Washington, leader of the Patriot army heard about the poem Phillis wrote about him. He invited her to his camp where she read it to the future President of the United States.

In 1778 Phillis Wheatley, the first black woman to publish a book and the first recorded to write poetry was granted her freedom. Her life afterward was hard and full of sorrow, but she never gave up on her dream of being a poet.

The final stanza of Phillis Wheatley's poem for General Washington:

Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side,
Thy ev'ry action let the Goddess guide.
A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine,
With gold unfading, WASHINGTON! Be thine.



sources: Africans in America/part 2 and vcu.edu

Elizabeth "Mumbet" Freeman ( ca. 1744-1829) 1811 Watercolor on ivory by Susan Anne Livingston Ridley Sedgwick (1788-1867). Gift of Maria Banyer Sedgwick, 1884. Original watercolor at the Massachusetts Historical Society
Elizabeth "Mumbet" Freeman ( ca. 1744-1829) 1811 Watercolor on ivory by Susan Anne Livingston Ridley Sedgwick (1788-1867). Gift of Maria Banyer Sedgwick, 1884. Original watercolor at the Massachusetts Historical Society

Elizabeth Freeman

The British Army saw slaves as expendable, using them as free labor with promises of freedom after the war. Some were even conscripted as personal servants or field labor, growing food for the army. George Washington lagged in allowing blacks to join and fight in his own army but was forced to open ranks as fighting, cold and deprivation depleted his own troops.

While their husbands were working as carpenters, caring for the horses, and in other areas, black women were cooking, washing clothes and in other vital roles. They played a huge part in the war, making up the workforce that repaired fortifications in southern cities such as Savannah and Charleston. Yet, they did not receive the promised and longed for freedom, status and respect after the war, but were relegated back to being virtually invisible. One slave woman had enough and took action.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Her slave name was Bett and she was generally known as Mum Bett, having a daughter called Little Bett. Her husband had served and been killed in the Revolutionary War but his sacrifice brought his widow no relief. Mum Bett and her daughter were owned by the Ashley family of Sheffield, Massachusetts. One day the mistress attempted to strike Mum Bett’s sister with a hot kitchen shovel and the brave woman stepped in front of the endangered girl taking the blow and receiving a burn mark that would remain as a scar the rest of her life. When people asked about the scar, she told them to ask Mrs. Ashley.

Mum Bett left the Ashley household and refused to return. Her master, John Ashley appealed to the law for his property to be returned. But Mum Bett was a very wise lady, having listened to John Ashley and his cronies discuss politics and legislature related to the new Massachusetts constitution that said “all men are born free and equal.” She thought that surely applied to her also and went to an attorney who was active in the anti slavery movement, Theodore Sedgewick, asking for his help. They sued for her freedom and won. Once she was a free woman, Mum Bett took the name Elizabeth Freeman and still refused to return to john Ashley when he offered her wages.

Elizabeth Freeman’s case was presented in another court case two years later and was instrumental in Massachusetts declaring slavery unconstitutional in that state. She was a Revolutionary hero just as if she had stood shoulder to shoulder with General Washington himself. Instead of firing a rifle, Elizabeth Freeman fired justice and righteousness within the court system.

She is recorded as saying,

“Any time, any time while I was a slave, if one minute's freedom had been offered to me, and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute, I would have taken it-just to stand one minute on God's airth a free woman-I would.” Elizabeth Freeman

Link to the court transcript:

http://www.mumbet.com/index.php/77-articles/mumbet/50-court


source:Africans in America Resource Bank

As I Discover More Female Heroes, I Will Add To This Article

Thanks to Alastar Packer Who Gave Me The Idea For This Article
Thanks to Alastar Packer Who Gave Me The Idea For This Article

More by this Author


Comments 54 comments

mollymeadows profile image

mollymeadows 4 years ago from The Shire

Wow, Hyph! These are amazing stories and amazing women. I had never heard of any of them. It makes me wonder how many other stories there are that we will never know. Thank you for sharing!


midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

A wonderful tribute, Hyphenbird. These women are so deserving of a better place in history and you have done them honor. A wonderful salute to them, and to you for writing this!!


royblizzard profile image

royblizzard 4 years ago from Austin / Leander, Texas

Great stories of great people. It is too bad we don't read more about great leaders in America like this. People who had the guts to stand against oppression and tell the world that we should all be free.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

Hyphen.. what a wonderful Hub Im going to call it a tribute because it has that feel black women in the American Revoltionary War.. quiet ghosts.. until now bless you


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi mollymeadows. It really took a lot of research and hunting just to find these, except for Phillis Wheatley. Since I love poetry, I knew about her. There must be many more out these and as I find them, I will add to this article. I am thrilled to honor these ladies and shine a spotlight on them. Thank you for coming by to get to know of them.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

I find American history very interesting because the United States is the prototype of independence and democracy. However, I was not aware about black women in the revolutionary war. Thanks for this informative hub.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

midget38, I feel they should be in our History books and taught in schools. I am so pleased you enjoyed learning about these ladies and their contributions to America and to all of us. Thank you so much.


writer20 profile image

writer20 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

Great read, I enjoyed your story about these poor African people.

Voted up ,awesome and very interesting, Joyce.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello royblizzard. I agree with you. People like this should fill history books and inspire schoolchildren, but they are largely forgotten which is the same as disrespected. Thank you for reading about these interesting and incredible ladies. We must all be brave as them and stand for what is right.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

This is excellent historical material that we should know more about. Black people were not given much time in our history books when I was growing up.


penlady profile image

penlady 4 years ago from Sacramento, CA

Hi Hyphenbird, thank so much for honoring these women with this hub. History has overlooked them for years; giving the impression that black women have little to no place in American History.

I am thankful that you think differently and chose to acknowledge the bravery of these women and how they helped not only African Americans, but America.

Thank you, for this hub. Voted up and interesting.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thank you Frank. Quiet ghosts is a perfect description of these and all the other people who suffered, fought and died for freedom. I do appreciate you're reading this and your feeling it is a tribute to those incredible ladies.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

These women were heroines in American History. I had not heard of their valiant efforts and patriotic love of our country. Thanks for sharing this one and will look forward to other hubs on this topic. Blessings.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Vinaya. Indeed America is all that and more. But we have had our challenges, setbacks and mistakes. My hope is to avoid more by increasing awareness and opening hearts to compassion and love. Thank you for your great and insightful comments.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thank you Joyce. Their contributions have been greatly ignored and lost for centuries. One by one, we can change that. I do appreciate you reading about these women of valor.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi aviannovice. The history books still do not cover the role of blacks in America. Maybe stories like this will spark interest and raise awareness. Thank you for your visit and comments.


lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Hyph, you are a great historian. I love the people you choose to write about. These ladies had spunk. Thanks for a great learning experience. Glad to see you have pintrest now.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

I loved this as i have always loved your stories of the struggles of the black women and women of the bible. Your writing is so very important. I hope you must realize that. Thank you my friend..Cheers.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you very much for this. We so easily forget valuable contributions like these.


His princesz profile image

His princesz 4 years ago

I am glad to meet those noble women in your writings. I love to learn from great women. :) Oh how I wish I could sit down and talk to them. :) Thanks for sharing ;)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 4 years ago from Richmond, VA

Thanks for introducing me to three inspiring women. Great hub, worth sharing.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello penlady. It truly was a privilege to learn about them. It is remarkably difficult to uncover information on this subject. I thought it was inspiring also how they loved the land while hating the bondage. The ability to separate that is worthy of a whole new article. Thank you for reading about the ladies and their contribution.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

teaches12345, I had known about Phillis Wheatley but not Mammy Kate or Elizabeth Freeman. I really believe God leads me to discover these matters and to write about them. By learning about people like this we keep their valor alive. Thank you so much. I appreciate your own loyalty and following.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi lambservant. Thanks for the heads up about Pinterest. I needed to uncheck a box in my profile. These ladies are quite inspiring aren't they? I worked for days just to find this much information. I intend to add more as I discover more women heroes though. Thank you for coming by, for being a loyal follower and for loving our Lord.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

always exploring, thank you so very much. As you know one works so hard to create a piece of writing and hopes others also find it interesting and a teaching opportunity. When people like you and others use words like important and history, I know the hard work is worthwhile. You just don't know how happy you have made me.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Mhatter. Yes we do and often because history books are selectively written. By presenting black women and indeed any persons as victims (which they were) and never showing their triumphs, the government prevents them from reaching full potential even now. Thanks for caring and for reading about these very special ladies.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

His princesz, I agree. One hour's conversation with these women would fill books and books. I am so pleased you read about them and thank you so much.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

liftandsoar, thanks for haring this story. These indeed are inspiring and brave women who endured much but never forgot they were worth much.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Well done, Hyph! and thank you for bringing these tales of the African American women of the Revolution to HP. I've heard of Wheatley somewhere but otherwise all are new figures to me. Mammy Kate: what a brave and clever lady she was. First black woman to honored as a patriot 0f the state of Georgia; and Phillis with her literary gifts, invited to meet Washington himself. We can only wish her life following had been allowed to prosper. And last but not least Eliz Freeman who had had enough of bondage and whose case was instrumental in bringing the abhorrent institution to an end in Massachusetts. You handled the suggestion magnificently ladywriter, just as i knew you would, bravo Hyph!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Alastar. I was hoping would approve of this article. Your suggestion in a comment gave me the inspiration. Thank you for that. Little did I know how hard it was to find information that can be verified. I am eager to locate more ladies and add them to the Hub. Thank you, thank you!!


summerberrie 4 years ago

Hyphenbird, loved reading every bit of your accounts of these brave women. Glad it was shared by Alastar Packer and came across my feed. Nice read and very much inspirational.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Beautifully researched and beautifully written with your special touch of love. This is your trademark in writing and it is very special. Thank you for enlightening us about these beautiful women.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

Excellent article about black heroins in America, Hyphenbird. My hat off for all these women. I can picture myself so clearly in their shoes!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello summerberrie. That was nice Alastar to share the Hub. Thank you for reading it. I find these women inspirational also. I think I found one more to add on. Yeah! Thanks again, I appreciate the visit.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thank you Becky. That makes me feel good to know it shows. I worked hard on this one. Now let's hope it gets indexed so outside traffic can find it. sigh

Hi Martie. I hope I would be so brave and strong. I am glad you liked the article. Thank you.


thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia

Hyp, always enjoy reading and learning about history. Never heard of any of these women before, all new to me. But wow, loved the Mammy Kate story. What a brave woman to go in that prison! A very loyal woman it appears as well. These stories are inspirational and you really get a sense of the value of freedom. Awesome article on these brave women. Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello lyricwriter. I think that Mammy Kate was very cool. They all were out of the ordinary though. I am so pleased you read about these women. Thank you for that.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

Hyphen: Great article and great idea from Alastar. I especially liked the bio on Phillis - How fortunate she was to have been educated by the master family - that rarely happened during those times. The whites felt it was easier to keep the slaves on bondage if they were ignorant and unable to read and write. I am intrigued to find she wrote poetry. All these women you wrote about were gutsy women, Hyphen. It takes all kinds to free a nation and as you said how sad that it took generations for the black slaves to receive freedom. This is so informative and interesting. Thanks for a great article. Voted up and interesting.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello suzettenaples.Yes, Phillis was indeed blessed to be recognized by the Wheatley family. She even went to Europe. It was so neat learning about these ladies. I have found another and just need to research her some more. Thanks so much for leaving a comment about this Hub. It is an important one for us all to know.


healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

These women were so fascinating and brave and should be in every history book. How impressive that Mammy Kate rescued Stephen Heard by carrying him hidden in a basket. I look forward to the day when instead of "womens history" or "black history" it is just referred to as history and everyone will be included. Voted up and shared.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

healthylife2, I also long for that day. It will come I have no doubt of that. Thank you for reading about these brave and inspiring women. Mammy Kate was indeed a wise and wonderful woman. Thank you for the shares and votes.


CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 4 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

I love hubs like this...they are short, loaded with information and very inspiring!

Chris


grinnin1 profile image

grinnin1 4 years ago from st louis,mo

Bravo! These are wonderful stories that I have never heard. Your writing is so full and packed with interesting facts. Thank you for teaching me about some amazing women today! Fantastic hub!


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Hyphen. You have done an incredible job with this story. It took me awhile to get to it, but it was well worth it to me. Your efforts are always appreciated.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello CMerritt. Thank you very much. I struggle to keep my articles short. I tend to be naturally long winded. laugh I usually go back and edit out lots of little things I had added. I am so pleased you found this Hub inspiring. I loved writing it.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

grinnin1, thank you very much. I appreciate that. The research was time consuming but writing this was fun. I am inspired myself just from knowing about these women. Thanks for coming by to learn about them.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thank you mckbirdbks. I do appreciate that. I thought these women deserved attention and the topic is hardly touched.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

...another very important and essential hub subject in which you have covered so well Brenda with your world class pedigree as a historian with a keen eye for research as well - I am so very proud of you and the work that are you doing at the Hub - you are surely one of our shining stars and a true Hub treasure as revered and respected by so many of us here - and sending you good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 9:29pm and linking this major work by you to my FB group Let's just talk music or cinema (and history too)


Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

what a wonderful and awesome hub.. I love it.. Everyone needs to read this.. these amazing women.. are awesome to read about.. You did a great job with this hub.

sharing

Debbie


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Epi. Thank you for taking time for my Hub. I really loved the research and writing this one. I love history. I appreciate you sharing this on your FB page. I wish I had more time but just don't so I do not have a Facebook page. I appreciate you.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Debbie. I am so glad you liked reading about these ladies. I worked hard on this and am pleased to know the readers find it good. Thank you!


tamarawilhite profile image

tamarawilhite 4 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

We need to stop putting the latest celebrities in history books in an effort to get kids interested and include stories of real, resilient black people like these women.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Tamara. You are so right. When properly told, people like these in this Hub will fascinate children and become role models to them. Please pass along these stories to children you know. I do and love to see children's faces light up. Thank you for caring and being interested.


ccnup 2 years ago

I am so glad you wrote about these women. The problem with women( and men) like these not being learned about is because our history text books have been white washed by a certain ideological group who want us to think that only rich white men fought for our independence from England, which in fact is not true. We had white and black, men and women founders.

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