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During the war, New York became a sanctuary for 10,000 freedom-seeking African Americans from up and down the coast. Former slaves signed contracts with the British and were paid for their work. They were no longer "So-and-so's slave Cato," always identified by their connection to a slave master. Now they chose family names for themselves. They argued over politics, preached the Gospel, and began to define themselves as a free people.
The American Revolution smashed the system of slavery in New York City. Once the British captured the city in August 1776, it became a major center of free black life in America. In June 1779, General Henry Clinton offered freedom to all slaves who reached British lines. By 1780, more than 10,000 blacks were crammed into the town, many living in tents and hovels but also building fortifications and raiding Patriot towns. When the British left in 1783, more than 3,000 blacks sailed away with them.
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