Patriotism was on the rise and the sentiment was no respecter of station or color, just ask Peter Salem. Born into slavery in 1750 in Framingham, Massachusetts to Jeremiah Belknap, Salem was later sold to Lawson Bruckminster — a man who would become a major in the Continental Army.
Taxation without representation took its toll on everyone, causing a shift in loyalties — and sometimes the act of a few can inspire the masses. One such event for Peter Salem was the Boston Tea Party. So moved by what he had witnessed, Salem pleaded with Bruckminster to let him to fight alongside his fellow patriots. Touched by Salem’s devotion, Bruckminster granted the slave his freedom, immediately allowing him to join the Massachusetts Minutemen.
Salem had proven himself a capable spy and learned weeks in advance that the British were planning to attack and take rebel supplies. Because of this intelligence, the rebels moved their supplies and were ready and waiting when the British showed up. The ensuing battle in Lexington marked the beginning of the revolution where the ‘shot heard round the world’ was fired.
Salem later fought at Bunker Hill and the battle of Saratoga Springs, becoming a revolutionary war hero. He lived out his days in Framingham as a free man and cane weaver. Peter Salem was so revered that his final resting place was among white people at the Framingham cemetery, an unheard of honor for a one-time slave.
The town also placed a memorial stone over Salem’s gravesite, calling him “a soldier of the Revolution.”
At a time when we are so divided, how much of a difference would it make in places like Baltimore, Ferguson and Chicago to know the truth of our Black Founders? To know we have stood shoulder to shoulder as brothers and sisters before, even back to the founding of this great nation?
The story of Peter Salem adds further evidence that the founding of America was truly revolutionary.