The World of Thomas Jeremiah: Charles Town on the Eve of the American Revolution

The World of Thomas Jeremiah: Charles Town on the Eve of the American Revolution

The World of Thomas Jeremiah: Charles Town on the Eve of the American Revolution

The World of Thomas Jeremiah: Charles Town on the Eve of the American Revolution

Synopsis

This book profiles the port of Charles Town, South Carolina, during the two-year period leading up to the Declaration of Independence. It focuses on the dramatic hanging and burning of Thomas Jeremiah, a free black harbor pilot and firefighter accused by the patriot party of plotting a slave insurrection during the chaotic spring and summer of 1775. To examine the world of this wealthy, slave-holding African American through his trial and execution, Ryan uses a wide array of letters, naval records, personal and official correspondence, memoirs and newspapers. He finds that the black majority of the South Carolina Lowcountry managed to assist the British in their invasion efforts, despite patriot attempts to frighten Afro-Carolinians into passivity and submission. Although Whigs attempted, through brutality and violence, to keep their slaves from participating in the conflict, Afro-Carolinians became actively involved in the struggle between colonists and the Crown as spies, messengers, navigators and marauders. The book demonstrates that an understanding of what was going on in this vital port city during the mid-1770s has broader implications for the study of the Atlantic World, African American history, naval history, urban race relations, labor history, and the turbulent politics of America's move toward independence.

Excerpt

This book is about the port of Charles Town, South Carolina, during the two-year period leading up to the Declaration of Independence. Not enough attention has been paid to this Southern metropolis. When the city is discussed in the historiography of the American Revolution, it is usually in the context of the Southern Campaign during the latter part of the war. This book begins in the summer of 1774 in the wake of increased pressure from the Intolerable Acts and ends in the summer of 1776 with the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence in Charles Town.

Not surprisingly, there is a significant racial dimension to the coming of the War for Independence in South Carolina. Nothing illustrates this better than the dramatic hanging and burning of Thomas Jeremiah, a free black harbor pilot and firefighter accused by the patriot party of plotting a slave insurrection during the turbulent spring and summer of 1775. This book examines the world of this wealthy, slaveholding African-American using a wide array of letters, naval records, personal and official correspondence, memoirs, and newspapers. In order to examine the context of Jeremiah’s trials and subsequent execution, it has been particularly valuable to generate a chronological narrative for the period of June 1774 to August 1776. As this work illustrates, the enslaved majority of the South Carolina Low Country managed to assist the British in their invasion efforts, despite patriot attempts to frighten AfroCarolinians into passivity and submission. Although Whigs attempted through brutality and violence to keep their slaves from participating in the conflict, Afro-Carolinians would become actively involved in the struggle between colonists and the Crown as spies, messengers, navigators, and marauders.

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