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This New Exhibit Pays Homage To Thousands Of Black Soldiers Forgotten In History

By DeAnna Taylor

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We’ve all gone through a history class at some point in our life. During said class or classes, our teachers spent some time telling us about how the Patriots won the American Revolution, leading to the official creation of our nation.

What many of those books, if not all of them, fail to tell us about is the over 5,000 Black men and women who were instrumental in helping to win that war.

Painting by Titus Kaphar
Photo courtesy of American Revolution Museum

It seems that just a few years after the American Revolution, as historians began to summarize the events of the war, they suddenly were hit with a case of amnesia.

Curators and historians at American Revolution Museum at Yorktown , in Yorktown, Virginia recently spent some time going back to gather the facts that were somehow not told.

Their latest exhibit, “Forgotten Solider,” tells the personal stories of both enslaved and free Black Americans, who fought on both sides of the war.

Photo courtesy of the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

As you walk into the exhibit, you are met with an almost floor to ceiling banner that displays a quote by artist and painter, Titus Kaphar. “What I’m trying to show you is how to shift your gaze– just slightly, just momentarily.”


The idea is that those who visit this special installation will be able, for once, to focus on those who were mostly known to be the insignificant pieces of the war.

Many of the documents and paintings that we are usually presented with force us to see only the white men and women who contributed to this part of history.

American and British Inspection Rolls, on loan from the U.S. National Archives and National Archives of the United Kingdom.
Photo courtesy of the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

A few of the standout things to look for in the exhibit are the American and British Inspection Rolls. These two logs, list over 3,000 Black men and women who escaped over British lines in hope of seeing freedom. This is the first time since 1783, that both documents have been together.

Related: Meet Titus Kaphar: The Black Painter Using Art To Confront Racial Inequality In America

These documents along with Article 7 of the Treaty of Paris, also on display, gave a written promise that all slaves taken by both the American and British were to be freed and that no Blacks could be harmed or taken away by the British at the conclusion of the war.

Sculpture by Titus Kaphar
Photo courtesy of The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

Another interesting piece to spend some time with is an original sculpture by Titus Kaphar. He created a sculpture of George Washington within a glass box, but what the viewer will also see is the sketch of a Black soldier on the outer glass on the box. Kaphar’s goal is to have you study this Black soldier and to allow his life to come to the forefront of your mind before you think of Washington’s contribution.

Finally, you’ll be able to make personal connections with Black soldiers such as Billy Flora, James Lafayette, and Billy Lee all of whom had important roles during this time.

Photo courtesy of American Revolution Museum

The exhibit is apart of the special commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first Africans arriving in Virginia. You can visit “Forgotten Solider” from now until March 22, 2020.

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is located at 200 Water Street in Yorktown Virginia.

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DeAnna Taylor

DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel blogger, author, and writer. While Charlotte, NC (her hometown) is her base, she's always somewhere on a plane. Catch her on IG: @brokeandabroadlife.

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