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James Armistead

Little Known Hero from the American Revolution

Raul Becerra, News Editor

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February is Black History month, where we celebrate the influential black figures.


Everyone remembers Martin Luther King Jr., who led the civil rights movement in the 60’s.


Then there is Harriet Tubman, who helped slaves escape by the underground railroad.  


There is also George Washington Carver, a famous scientist who found alternatives to cotton and invented peanut butter.


We all know these people. But you may not have heard of James Armistead, a spy during the American Revolution.


James Armistead was crucial for winning the American Revolution, however, he gets no attention or fame despite his great works.


James Armistead was born into slavery around 1748 under his master. Given permission from his master, he went to fight in the revolution and was put in command by Marquis de Lafayette.


Lafayette posed him as a spy and was hoping he could get information on the British. He posed as a runaway slave hired by the British to spy on the Americans.


He managed to get into General Charles Cornwallis’s headquarters and learned about British operations without being detected. He was able to move freely between the British and American camps, giving information to Lafayette.


Using this information, General George Washington and Lafayette were able to stop the British from sending 10,000 troops to Yorktown. The French and American forces were then able to outnumber the British, thus defeating them in Yorktown. The results of this battle caused the British to surrender on October 19, 1781.


After the war, James Armistead returned to his master to continue being a slave. However, Lafayette assisted him in writing a recommendation for his freedom, which was granted in 1787. With gratitude, he adopted Lafayette’s surname as his own.


If it wasn’t for James’s actions, we may not have won the revolutionary war. It isn’t right that he hasn’t got much recognition despite his heroic actions. Hopefully this changes in the future and he will finally be in movies, shows, musicals, or books about the American Revolution.

To learn more about the life of James Armistead, you can visit

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James Armistead