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Exploring African American patriots of the Revolutionary War

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When Karen Batchelor became the first African American member of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1977, she did so under the military service of a non-African American. Of course, this does not imply that no African Americans served in the Revolution. Today there are African American members of both the DAR and the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), under the service of African American patriots.

Two new online resources provide information on these African American patriots.

In 2008 the Daughters of the American Revolution compiled and published the second edition of Forgotten Patriots: African American and American Indian Patriots of the Revolutionary War: A Guide to Service, Sources, and Studies. At over 800 pages, this book provides profiles of over 6,600 African American and native American patriots, complete with documentation of their service. In 2011, the DAR published a supplement to this book, containing newly-discovered evidence about these "forgotten patriots," including a number of newly-discovered patriots.

Last month, the DAR decided to provide the 2008 book and the 2011 Supplement in full on its website. Both volumes can be downloaded as PDF files. For more information on the project and to download these ebooks, visit http://www.dar.org/library/fp.cfm.

A second, similar resource debuted last week on the rapidly-expanding genealogy website Archives.com. Unlike the Forgotten Patriots project, the "Patriots of Color Database" did not originate in a print product, but was conceived and executed as an online database. This new database was funded by David Roux, Richard Gilder and the Gilder Lehrman Foundation, Joseph Dooley and the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), and the W. E. B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

The Database contains a search engine that can be used to quickly locate specific patriots. Unfortunately there does not appear to be a way to browse through the contents of the database, so researchers are limited to those patriots of whom they are already aware. In addition to short profiles of each identified non-white Patriot, the Patriots of Color Database also includes short overviews of the Research Methodology and the Resources Used.

These two resources each have their strengths and weaknesses, though most of the biographical details are duplicated in both. However, for those interested in minority participation in the founding of the United States, both of these new resources will provide plenty of information.

For more information on the "Patriots of Color Database" visit http://www.archives.com/patriots.

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