This year my wife read my children a book titled "Come All You Brave Soldiers: Blacks in the Revolutionary War" written by Clinton Cox, author of several highly-acclaimed books for young readers, including three on fascinating, yet little-known aspects of African American military history.
In "Come All You Brave Soldiers," Cox recounts the untold real stories about the vital role African-American soldiers played in the War for Independence. Cox is clear and captivating, but not at the expense of facts. He is very much the scholar, when it comes to educating his readers.
It happens is a hard assignment. Because as history really happens, our heroes don't always pose just right for the camera. And we do prefer to romance our history, if only just a little.
Cox didn't, and that's what I found so riveting about his rendition of the war that set us free. With little dispute, the war for our independence is a bright day in American history. But we all know that we've picked up a fairy tale, if we read that the sun always shines and never casts a dark shadow. And America, as great as it is, is not Camelot or Atlantis. But I digress.
Whose independence was the War of Independence for? In the real battle for our independence, it became very clear, that even if we won, everyone wasn't going to be free. Here's the painful irony of the War for Independence--African Americans were fighting for the land we helped make prosperous. We were fighting for our new home. But so long as we fought on the side of the colonists, we were helping to liberate the very ones who would make sure that we remained captives. So, the War for Independence in real history wasn't a war for independence for everybody. It was just a war for Independence if you weren't Black or Brown.
So as an African-American father, what do I tell my kids about Independence Day?
I will tell them the truth. Shouldn't I? Isn't that what we are supposed to tell our kids? I will tell them that the great founders of our nation spoke boldly of freedom, and enlisted African Americans to fight alongside them to the death for freedom. I will tell them that around 5,000 African Americans enlisted in, and fought bravely in the Continental Army. I will tell them that these brave African American soldiers, their forefathers, did this, despite the fact that their enemy--the British--offered them freedom and their countrymen continued slavery. I will tell them that their forefathers, men like Crispus Attucks, died fighting for America. I will tell them of men like James Robinson--who fought gallantly--and men like James Amistead--who risked all as spies--survived the war only to be returned to slavery before they gained their freedom. I will tell them many others fought as soldiers for freedom and died as slaves on the very land that they helped to free. I will tell them that their forefathers fought for America even though America wasn't fighting for them.