I was one of very few enslaved persons who gained freedom by serving in the Revolution. And it wasn’t easy.
Not much is known about my origins, the story of my birth and early life has not survived. I first appear in history as one of several slaves owned by Dr. Absalom Bainbridge, who lived on the main street in Princeton. There were, in fact, many enslaved persons in Princeton at that time.
At the time of the Battle of Princeton, Dr. Bainbridge served the British as a Loyalist, and when the British retreated north after their defeat, he went along with them. I remained in Princeton for a time, and then went to Long Island where he had relocated, and rejoined him. But in August, 1778, I ran away from him and returned to Princeton. Here I was in danger of becoming a “slave of the State of New Jersey,” but instead I was advised to join the Continental Army and earn my freedom.
I took that advice. I joined the army and served as a wagoneer until 1783 when the war ended. I returned to Princeton and started my life as a free man. Unfortunately, my struggle wasn’t over; a white man tried to claim me as his slave. With the help of several other white men, I petitioned the State Legislature for my freedom and, thankfully, it was granted in 1786.
It was a long and difficult road, which helps explain why I was one of only three enslaved persons who were granted the freedom from the New Jersey State Legislature for serving in the Continental Army.Learn More