Race and ethnicity have always mattered in the American experience. But their meanings and actualizations have changed over time and space, suggesting that they are social, not scientific, categories. Neither fixed nor permanent, they are continually negotiated and renegotiated. Race and ethnicity, or supposed physical and cultural groupings, respectively, were not always so defined or distinguished. America's first peoples formed economic, political, and ethnic groupings by language, kinship, and religious belief. They created idealized hierarchies that favored their own group over others. These perceived commonalities and differences justified belief systems and practices, alliances and fractures, cooperation and exploitation that shifted as time passed and situations changed.
Gary Y. Okihiro
William J. Harris
Revolutionary-era runaway slave, British Loyalist, and early settler in Sierra Leone, is believed to have been born in the Senegambia region of Africa. George Washington, then a colonel in the army of the British Empire, purchased Harry in 1763, along with Nan (believed to have been his wife) and four other slaves as a part of Washington's Great Dismal Swamp plan. According to this plan, Washington and five other planters would each provide five slaves to form a workforce to drain sixty square miles of the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and establish a rice plantation. By 1766 Washington had moved both Harry and Nan to work on his Mount Vernon Plantation in Virginia.
In 1771 Washington sent Harry to work on the construction of a mill approximately three miles from the Mansion House Clearly not content with his lot as a slave Harry made his first ...