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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Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.