For Blacks, There Was No Clear Choice

African-Americans ended up on both sides of the war, though they shared the goal of evading slavery.

A black soldier is credited with killing a British major at Bunker Hill.

A black soldier is credited with killing a British major at Bunker Hill.

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Some who remained began to petition local and state governments for equal rights. "You have a sixth of the total population that is nonwhite," Alexander says. "And these people are starting to hear all this stuff about freedom and wondering why it shouldn't apply to them."

The Revolution did help launch an emancipation movement that would outlaw slavery in the North. But slavery became further entrenched in the South, and many decades would pass before the Declaration of Independence's assertion that "all men are created equal" would be applied universally.