James Robinson was born into slavery in Maryland in the mid-18th century. He fought with valor in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and was recognized for his courage and talent.
Robinson met a president and at least one president-to-be. The Marquis de Lafayette awarded him with a gold French military medal of honor on him for his fighting at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. He was in the fight that helped Gen. Andrew Jackson beat the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, where a majority of the Black soldiers were killed.
But, each time Robinson went home after war, instead of being set free, like he was told he would be, he was pushed back into slavery. Robinson was enslaved for at least 77 years of his 115 years of life.
Finally, last weekend, Robinson was honored. He was given a military funeral Saturday in his adopted hometown of Detroit. The event was sponsored by two military legacy organizations at the Elmwood Cemetery. He was given an honor guard, a flag presentation, speeches, a rifle volley and the dedication of two bronze emblems representing the conflicts in which he fought.
Robinson was just one of more than 5,000 Black people who fought in the Revolutionary War and one of several thousand who fought for the United States in the War of 1812. He is also one of the thousands whose brave deeds weren’t recorded by the government and one of the many heroes who were never granted their freedom because they were Black.
“What more can you do to serve your country and to secure your rights, to secure equal citizenship, than that man did?” said Maurice Barboza to The Washington Post. Barboza is the founding director of a nonprofit that wants to build a monument in Washington to Black veterans of the Revolutionary War.