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Important Black Americans | Jack Arabus

Feb 12 | Important Black Americans | Jack Arabus

If it were left up to history textbooks, American children would grow up believing there were only three historically important Black Americans; Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. In honor of Black History month, Creative Tutors will be profiling some less well known, but nevertheless important, men and women who made our country great.

Jack Arabus was a slave of a wealthy Connecticut merchant. During the days of the Revolution, an individual could pay another to take his place in the army. Arabus’ owner struck an agreement with Jack. If he would fight in the place of his son, Jack would receive his freedom. Jack quickly accepted the offer and entered the Colonial Army as a replacement for the son of his merchant master.

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At the end of the Revolution however, when Jack returned after six years of service, the merchant changed his mind. Jack's use as a slave aboard his merchant vessels was too valuable to give up. The merchant did not return the £10 bounty he had received from the town of Stratford for Jack's service either.

Rightly angry and disillusioned, Jack ran away. He was quickly captured and jailed at New Haven. Although the merchant sued for the return of his "property", a Yale educated lawyer, Chauncey Goodrich, took up Jack's defense. In a landmark decision, judge in the case ruled that Jack was free the moment he left to fight for the cause of liberty. The existence of an agreement was of little importance in this and other similar cases. Many of the 300 black slaves who fought for Connecticut during the Revolution gained their freedom as a result of Jack's case.

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