African-Americans played pivotal role in War of 1812

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While celebrating the bicentennial of the War of 1812, many historians have paid more attention to the pivotal role African Americans played in the outcome of the conflict.  Black soldiers fought for both the United States and Great Britain.  Charles Ball, George Roberts, and William Williams are just a few of the black war heroes who had an impact on shaping American history. reports:

For the United States the War of 1812 was a second War of Independence against the British that birthed emblems of American nationalism such as the national flag, the “Star-Spangled Banner” and Uncle Sam, the national icon.

But for many enslaved Blacks it was the first major pathway to self-determination and freedom. Thousands of Blacks, both free and enslaved, together played a significant role in the outcome of the war, something officials and historians said should be remembered even as the world recognizes the conflict’s bicentennial, which began June 18.

“Black volunteers in large numbers stepped forward to defend homelands which paradoxically deprived them of basic freedoms for which they fought,” wrote historian Gerard T. Altoff in his book {Amongst My Best Men: African Americans and the War of 1812.} “In spite of overt prejudice, discrimination, and hatred, African-Americans stepped forward to serve, either in a civilian or a military capacity.”

For enslaved Blacks with an eye toward freedom the war offered several options: they could fight for the U.S., run away and seek freedom among the Native Americans or join His Majesty’s service. Many chose the latter, convinced that a British victory would hasten the end of slavery. The British nurtured that belief to some extent, and promised the slaves free emigration to British colonies in Canada and the West Indies in exchange for their service.

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