As the United States gained independence, a full fifth of the country's population was African American. The experiences of these men and women have been largely ignored in the accounts of the colonies' glorious quest for freedom. In this compact volume, Gary B. Nash reorients our understanding of early America, and reveals the perilous choices of the founding fathers that shaped the nation's future. Nash tells of revolutionary fervor arousing a struggle for freedom that spiraled into the largest slave rebellion in American history, as blacks fled servitude to fight for the British, who promised freedom in exchange for military service. The Revolutionary Army never matched the British offer, and most histories of the period have ignored this remarkable story.
Nash argues that the unusual convergence of factors immediately after the Revolutionary War created a unique opportunity to dismantle slavery. The failure to do so was paid for in the 1860s with the lives of 600,000 Americans killed in the Civil War. "The Forgotten Fifth" is a powerful story of the nation's multiple, and painful, paths to freedom. 2006 hardcover, 236 pages.