The period leading up to and during the Revolutionary War presented many opportunities for slaves to consider the concept "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" that white colonists claimed as their right in the Declaration of Independence. When war broke out, some slaves ran away to join British troops, hoping that the British would give them freedom. Others, however, did not run away, and many of the slaves in New England joined the fight for freedom from England's colonial government. Many of the slaves that stayed, hopeful that their owner's patriotism and fight for freedom would make them more willing to allow their slaves the same right, asked their owners for legal deeds of manumission. Others turned to the courts to seek the individual rights promised by the Declaration of Independence. This section explores some of the ways slaves in Fairfield County sought to exercise their claims to their own rights for freedom.
Image: "Peter Salem shoots Major Pitcairn at Bunker Hill", Johnson Edward, A School History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1890. Courtesy The Connecticut Historical Society Museum, Hartford, Connecticut.