Today in labor history: George Washington says “no” to black recruits

On this day in 1775, General George Washington prohibited recruiters from enlisting African Americans into the Patriot Army. The order stipulated that they not recruit “any deserter from the Ministerial army, nor any stroller, negro or vagabond …unable to bear arms, nor old men unfit to endure the fatigues of the campaign, are to be enlisted.”

Leaders of the revolutionary war, many of whom owned slaves, including Washington, feared arms would used against them. The ruling was not uniform however and African Americans served in some units and some segregated divisions were formed.

Photo: Continental soldiers at Yorktown; on the left, an African-American soldier of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. Wikimedia Commons.



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