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Image 2923 Patriots Of Color Archive
A document from the Patriots of Color Archive.

The Digitized Archive Will be Available for Free and Accessible to All on Ancestry®

Timothy Caesar. Cuff Liberty. Jabez Pottage. Jonas Sunsaman. Nearly 200 rare documents bearing the names of Black and Native American soldiers who served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War will soon be accessible to everyone at no cost, thanks to a new partnership between Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution and Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics.

“I am delighted that Ancestry and the Museum of the American Revolution are partnering to make this unique and important archive available to the public,” said Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and author. “The founding of our great republic was truly a multicultural event, but that aspect hasn’t always been taught. This partnership is an important step toward uncovering and sharing stories of the diverse people who played essential roles in creating this nation, including my fourth great grandfather, a free Black man named John Redman!”

The Patriots of Color Archive was acquired by the Museum in 2022 from a private collection, following the generous contributions of several donors. The collection of original muster rolls, pay vouchers, enlistment papers, discharge forms, and other documents was assembled from auctions, rare manuscript dealers, and other collectors over the past two decades.

As part of their commitment to preserving history that is at-risk of being forgotten, Ancestry is digitizing the collection and making it available online at no cost. Once digitized, everyone will have the opportunity to explore the lives of hundreds of veterans of color, from home, and better understand their often complex relationship to the American Revolution.

“At least 5,000 men of color fought in the Continental Army, but their stories aren’t as known as they should be,” said Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, Museum President and CEO. “This archive allows us to explore the extraordinary lives of these men who helped to secure independence, yet who have not received the recognition they deserve as American Founders. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with Ancestry to share these rich human stories with the world.”

Several documents from the Patriots of Color Archive are currently on display in the Museum’s groundbreaking special exhibition Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia, which officially opens to the public on Feb. 11, 2023. The exhibit explores the life and legacy of free Black Philadelphian James Forten and his family’s tireless pursuit of liberty and equality for all, from the Revolutionary era through the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Image 29 23 Patriots Of Color Archive
Patriots of Color Archive documents on view in the "Black Founders" special exhibit.

The documents on display in Black Founders include a 1779 pay receipt that documents the names of 49 enlisted men from the 1st Rhode Island Regiment; a 1783 discharge signed by General George Washington for Black soldier Brister Baker, who served for six years in the Continental Army; a 1780 voucher that documents compensation received by Tuis Sharper, a Connecticut soldier of African and Native American ancestry, who served in uniform for at least six years, including nearly a year as a prisoner of war; among others.

The Museum is grateful to the following donors for their support of the archive: Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III in memory of Daniel W. Offit, Denise Foderaro and Frank Quattrone, Bank of America, Philip Syng Reese, Ed Satell and the Satell Family Foundation, with additional support from Tim Collins and the Museum’s Collection Society. We appreciate the State Society of Cincinnati of Pennsylvania for their support of ongoing research into the archive. Support for conservation and research provided by Dr. Scholl Foundation.

About Ancestry
Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, empowers journeys of personal discovery to enrich lives. With our unparalleled collection of more than 30 billion records, over 3 million subscribers and over 23 million people in our growing DNA network, customers can discover their family story and gain a new level of understanding about their lives. For over 30 years, we’ve built trusted relationships with millions of people who have chosen us as the platform for discovering, preserving, and sharing the most important information about themselves and their families.

About Museum of the American Revolution

The Museum of the American Revolution uncovers and shares compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events that sparked America’s ongoing experiment in liberty, equality, and self-government. Through the Museum’s unmatched collection, immersive galleries, powerful theater experiences, and interactive elements, visitors gain a deeper appreciation for how this nation came to be and feel inspired to consider their role in ensuring that the promise of the American Revolution endures. Located just steps away from Independence Hall, the Museum serves as a portal to the region’s many Revolutionary sites, sparking interest, providing context, and encouraging exploration. The Museum, which opened on April 19, 2017, is a private, non-profit, and non-partisan organization. For more information, visit www.AmRevMuseum.org or call 877.740.1776.