Stories of Revolutionary African-American soldiers come to life at this museum

“Forgotten Soldier” will open June 29 at the museum, 200 Water Street in Yorktown, discussing the experiences of African-American soldiers and their roles during the American Revolution. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)
“Forgotten Soldier” will open June 29 at the museum, 200 Water Street in Yorktown, discussing the experiences of African-American soldiers and their roles during the American Revolution. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is bringing the stories of African-American soldiers to the forefront through a new interactive exhibition.

“Forgotten Soldier” will open June 29 at the museum, 200 Water St. in Yorktown, discussing the experiences of black soldiers and their roles during the American Revolution.

The special exhibition will be open through March 22, 2020. Exhibits include contemporary artwork by Titus Kaphar, as well as rare documents and artifacts, according to an informational page on the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown website.

The stories of the soldiers will also detail the risks and challenges African-Americans faced during the war.

One soldier featured in the exhibition may ring a bell from grade school history books: Crispus Attucks, a formerly enslaved sailor of African and American Indian descent who was the war’s first casualty at the Boston Massacre.

Other people covered by the exhibition include Bristol Rhodes, an enslaved man who gained freedom by joining the Rhode Island Regiment, and Thomas Carney, a free man from Maryland who fought with the 5th Maryland Regiment.

Special documents on loan

  • Dunmore’s Proclamation of 1775
  • Treaty of Paris, Article 7, New York, 1783
  • The American “Inspection Roll of Negroes No. 1” and the British “Book of Negroes”
  • “Lieutenant Thomas Grosvenor and His Negro Servant” portrait by John Trumbull, circa 1797

Hands-on experiences

  • Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: An interactive wheel shows choices many African-American people faced during the American Revolution. Visitors can spin the wheel and find out what happened to the real people who made certain choices.
  • Hiding in Plain Sight: A search-and-find activity where visitors learn about James Lafayette, an enslaved man who was a Patriot spy.
  • Of The Greatest Service: Joining Patriot Ranks: A shadow box activity revealing some touchable objects African Americans would have received while serving in the war.
  • Who Am I? And What Became of Me?: An activity telling the stories of six people involved in the Revolutionary War, and what became of them.
  • Remember a Soldier!: An activity where visitors can write uplifting postcard messages to today’s enlisted soldiers.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.