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The Revolutionary World of a Free Black Man

Thursday, May 12 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

What did it mean to be a “free Black man” in revolutionary-era New Jersey?  The life of Jacob Francis offers a special look at how this status affected every stage of a long and active life.


Please join us when author and historian William Kidder presents a virtual talk based on his book The Revolutionary World of a Free Black Man: Jacob Francis, 1754-1836.

Francis spent his early life as an indentured servant, sent to successive locations away from his family and not knowing his own last name. As a young man he wanted to join the cause of liberty, even though at the time Washington actively discouraged enlistment of Black men. He managed to join a Massachusetts Continental regiment, fought at the Battle of Trenton, then served in the New Jersey militia until the war’s end.

After the Revolution, he overcame obstacles to free Black men owning land and established himself as a farmer.  He married Mary, a local enslaved woman whom he freed after purchasing her from her from her owner.  They raised their family in Amwell Township and Flemington, both becoming respected members of their society, even as they lived among many who advocated for the colonization of Black citizens to Africa.

Deeply shaped by his early experiences in fighting for his country’s liberty, Francis remained committed to the idea of freedom and equal rights for all.  Some of his children would further this cause, going on to become active abolitionists inspired by their father’s story.

Please register to receive the Zoom link.


William "Larry" Kidder


William (“Larry”) Kidder is a retired high school history teacher who has published numerous books on American Revolutionary history in New Jersey.  He is a long-time volunteer at the Howell Living History Farm, where he has served as an historian, interpreter, and draft horse teamster.  He is active in several historical societies, and gives talks to a variety of civic groups and organizations.




Thursday, May 12
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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