The upheaval of the American Revolutionary War produced a number of opportunities for enslaved adult males in Rhode Island to liberate themselves. One legal path to freedom, starting in February 1778, was enlistment in Rhode Island’s reestablished 1st Rhode Island Regiment. After the British army and navy invaded and occupied Newport in December 1776, enslaved Rhode Islanders had new opportunities to gain their freedom: they could run away from their masters and escape to Newport. There was an involuntary path to freedom for enslaved Rhode Islanders as well: raiding parties of British soldiers or their Loyalist allies operating out of Newport sometimes captured slave owners, and also took their slaves. After the British evacuated Newport in October 1779, some of these fugitives who had sought refuge with the British made their way to New York City and after the war were resettled by the British military in eastern Canada, one of the few places in the British empire where slavery had not taken root.
McBurney, Christian M.
"Freedom for African Americans in British-Occupied Newport, 1776-1779, and the “Book of Negroes”,"
Newport History: Vol. 87
, Article 2.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.salve.edu/newporthistory/vol87/iss276/2