Jacob and Mary Francis grave sites at the Flemington Baptist Church Cemetery.

In honor of Black History Month, The Hunterdon County Historical Society will host a free virtual program on African-American patriot Jacob Francis, who fought alongside Continental soldiers during the American Revolution.

Author and historian William “Larry” Kidder will discuss Francis’s life on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. via Zoom. To reserve a space, visit the historical society’s website at www.hunterdonhistory.org.

This program — titled The Revolutionary World of a Free Black Man: Jacob Francis, 1754-1836 — is based upon Kidder’s research for his forthcoming book-length biography of Jacob Francis to be published by Knox Press. Francis’s life reveals an important story of New Jersey and American history that is little known – how people who were neither enslaved nor white experienced the American Revolution and the early Republic period.

The story of Jacob Francis and his family also helps us better understand our current diverse society, Kidder said.

A Preview of the Program/Jacob Francis’s Life

The program will explore Francis’s life during the time of slavery and its abolition in New Jersey. Early in life, Francis was indentured out until the age of twenty-one. While this was not enslavement, it wasn’t far from it. After a series of interesting circumstances, Francis ended his indenture in 1775 in Salem, Massachusetts after living there between 1768 and 1775 during the build-up to the Revolution. In late 1775, he enlisted in a Massachusetts Continental army regiment and fought in the siege of Boston, the New York campaign and the Battle of Trenton.

He not only dealt with problems of race during the war but also experienced the physical and mental hardships common to all soldiers. After his enlistment expired, he served in the Hunterdon County militia for the remainder of the war.

After the war he became a farmer and married an enslaved woman, who then became free, raising his family in Amwell Township and later Flemington. Struggling with discrimination and aware of their father’s commitment to fighting for the rights of all men, several of Francis’s children became very active in the abolition movement.

About William “Larry” Kidder

Kidder taught high school history for 40 years and has been a volunteer interpreter and historian for Howell Living History Farm in Hopewell for 30 years. He is a member of the Washington Crossing American Revolutionary War Round Table, the Association for Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums, and serves on the New Jersey Living History Advisory Council and the Crossroads of the American Revolution Advisory Council.

Kidder’s books on the American Revolution include: Ten Crucial Days: Washington’s Vision for Victory Unfolds; A People Harassed and Exhausted: The Story of a New Jersey Militia Regiment in the American Revolution; and Crossroads of the Revolution: Trenton 1774-1783.

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