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Words in Context - Colonial Research Associates Words in Context - Colonial Research Associates

Words in Context

 Words-In-Context for Hope of Freedom:

Southern Blacks and the American Revolution

Chapter Two: A Spanish safe haven in Florida

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Charter: A charter is a legal document authorizing a specific agreement. This can range from chartering a boat for deep sea fishing to establishing a formal branch of an organization (bank, fraternal order, college fraternity or sorority, etc.). In this case, the charter was a formal document authorized by the English government that allowed a group of investors to establish the colony of Carolina. This charter fully explained the conditions for establishing the colony, the rights and privileges of the colonists, and what was expected of them in return.

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Fueled: A reference to using some form of fuel to create, maintain, or increase energy – perhaps, even an explosion. In this case, it refers to the King of Spain adding an explosive “fuel” to his conflicts with England by offering freedom to English slaves who escaped to Florida.

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Lightning Rod: Lightning rods are used to attract the destructive power of lightning strikes safely away from buildings and other structures. In this case, the disputed land between Florida and Carolina – Georgia – was attracting hostile activity away from the main port cities of St. Augustine and Charles Town, and into a much less developed area.

Chapter Three: 1763: Drastic change for Blacks in the Southern Colonies

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Safe Haven: Any place offering shelter and safety. Sailors refer to harbors and ports as havens during storms. But havens aren’t always harmless places. In the old Wild West, havens could also refer to a place where outlaws were safe from the law.

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Mother Country: In the colonial era it was believed that colonists should be treated like small children – obedient without question. The empires of Great Britain, France, and Spain were seen as the “mother-figures” to the child-like colonies. When the thirteen colonies rebelled against Britain, they were referred to as “unnatural” colonists acting out in an “unnatural” manner. They believed that such rebellion and disobedience went against the natural order of things.

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Haunted: Here, haunted refers to fearful things that were very real – in this case, bandits. During the American Revolution, some men took advantage of so many fighting-aged men being off to war. Their homes, farms, families, businesses, etc., were often unprotected. Bandits were often feared more than soldiers.

Saturated: In this case, the author is trying to make us understand how this horrible attitude toward slaves had so thoroughly soaked into the American culture that it was considered “normal” to treat other human beings so badly.

Chapter Four: British proclamations of “Freedom”

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Longing: An emotion or strong feeling, resulting from an unfulfilled desire or dream; a craving. In this case, the natural desire to be free.

Hunger: When a person wants very much to achieve a goal or make a change in their lives, it’s often described in the same manner as the gnawing feeling we get in our stomachs when we’re hungry. In this case, the slaves hungered for freedom.

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Domino-Fashion: The chain-reaction achieved when dominoes are stood closely together and knocked into each other. In this case, it’s a reference to the southern colonies falling to the rebellion like dominoes, from Virginia down to Georgia, as rebellion swept the continent.

Powder Keg: During the colonial era, gun powder was stored in wooden kegs and small barrels. Powder kegs had to be kept away from any potential flame, as even a spark could ignite the powder with deadly, explosive results. Much in the same way, Governor Tonyn saw the advancement of the rebellion toward East Florida like a fire moving quickly toward his colony. He believed that it would take very little for the situation to become explosive and rebellion to consume his colony.

Sweep: As the word is used here, think of the rebellion as a broom that’s sweeping through the southern colonies, pushing Loyalists and the British army out of their country.

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Fence-Straddlers: During the American Revolution many could not decide which side of the rebellion to take. Rather than committing to one side or the other, they hoped to “straddle the fence” until a clear winner might be determined. In this case, what the British did by encouraging slave insurrection not only angered those already in rebellion, but pushed many who had yet to make up their minds to join the revolt.

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“end around”: An “end around” is a play in game of football where one team attempts to advance the ball by running completely around the pile-up of people in the middle of the field rather than taking the shorter, more difficult route right through them. In this case, General Prevost chose not to make his way back to Savannah by plunging his troops directly at the larger American army, but by swinging out around them down the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia and heading down the coastline in hope to avoid a major conflict.

Chapter Five: For those who found freedom…?

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Chains of Tyranny: Tyranny is when a people are ruled unfairly and unjustly by absolute authority, with no voice of their own. “Chains of tyranny” was a term used constantly in the American colonies, as the revolutionaries referred to themselves as slaves under Britain’s laws and taxes, bound by the shackles and chains of unfair and unjust laws.

Pawns: Pawns make up the largest number and most easily sacrificed pieces on a chessboard. In this case, slaves were seen in the same manner. The British weren’t offering them freedom because they deserved better treatment. Lord Dunmore believed that the threat of a slave revolt was so frightening to slave owners that the rebels would back down rather than face this danger. Dunmore’s goal was to use this threat to suppress the rebellion before freeing any of the slaves so that the economy of his own colony of Virginia wouldn’t be hurt by his actions.

Chapter Six: In the service of the Crown

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“black ops”: This term is short for “Black Operations,” which are covert military strikes that depend upon secrecy and deception. The East Florida Rangers performed any number of military services for the Crown, which ranged from espionage to cattle rustling to battlefield engagements. At first only Governor Tonyn knew their missions and directed their assignments.

Stuff of legends: When an action or actions make a dynamic impact, the people involved are often seen as larger than life; heroes or villains alike. To the Loyalists, Thomas Brown was a legendary hero who led the East Florida Rangers with honor and distinction. To those in rebellion, Thomas Brown was a name to be greatly feared. Brown was, in real life, what legend has credited to Banastre Tarleton – the most hated and feared British officer in the southern backcountry.

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Ushered back: To be “ushered” is to be assisted or escorted from one place to another. In this case, former slaves were being assisted, or ushered, back to a full state of humanity by the people who offered them the opportunity to act as free men.

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Exact a pound of flesh: This phrase comes from Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, and is a term for revenge. In this case, it’s the idea that a former slave might have an opportunity to face a slave owner – perhaps even their own former owner – on the battlefield.

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A Sailor’s lot: The rolling of dice used to be called “casting lots.” Your “lot” was whatever your dice came up, and there was no changing them. In the same way, sailors in the British navy understood that their lives were going to be hard, the work back-breaking, the food bad, and the danger of being killed or horribly wounded was always present. That’s just how it was.

Cut: To divide or be divided; to cut away from a larger object. In this case, taking a “cut” meant that equal shares of a ship’s plunder was divided and distributed among the crew.

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Façade: Fake, false; a deception or illusion. It’s often used to refer to the decorative front of a building that’s been made to look more ornate from the street than the rest of the structure.


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Filtering: To pass slowly from one place or item into another, in the same manner that water drips slowly through coffee grounds and the coffee filter into the pot. In the case of making coffee, a filter is used to keep the coffee grounds out of the coffee pot. The water is what is filtering; the coffee grounds are being filtered. As the word is used here, Loyalists are traveling slowly, one ship-load or wagon-load at a time, from the rebellious colonies into the loyal colony of East Florida over a period of several years.