Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the Sons of the American Revolution have started a project to identify the thousands of black men who fought for American independence during the Revolutionary War. They hope to identify the men and then find their living descendants.
"My first goal with this project is to enhance the awareness of the American public of the role of African-Americans in the struggle for freedom in this country," said Gates, director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard.
"Plus, my concern is that there are many people walking around, like me, who had no idea that I had an ancestor who fought in the Revolution," he said.
It was that revelation which inspired Gates to launch the project.
Gates learned of his family history during filming of the PBS documentary series "African American Lives" which used DNA testing and genealogical research to investigate the ancestry of notable black Americans. He found that one of his ancestors, John Redman, a farmer from Williamsport, Va. (now part of West Virginia), fought with the 1st Virginia Light Dragoons for four years during the Revolution.
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