Espionage and Enslavement in the Revolution

The True Story of Robert Townsend and Elizabeth

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“At a time when historically marginalized voices and stories are at last being brought to the forefront, it’s exciting to learn about a true story explaining details of the Revolutionary War on Long Island, African American history in New York, and the valiant fight for independence in a world full of loss, heartache, and eventual triumph. Claire’s research and commitment bring history to life and reveal a new African American female hero . . . Liss. Enjoy!”
—Vanessa Williams

In January 1785, a young African American woman named Elizabeth was put on board the Lucretia in New York Harbor, bound for Charleston, where she would be sold to her fifth master in just twenty-two years. Leaving behind a small child she had little hope of ever seeing again, Elizabeth was faced with the stark reality of being sold south to a life quite different from any she had known before. She had no idea that Robert Townsend, a son of the family she was enslaved by, would locate her, safeguard her child, and return her to New York—nor how her story would help turn one of America’s first spies into an abolitionist. Robert Townsend is best known as one of George Washington’s most trusted spies, but few know about how he worked to end slavery. As Robert and Elizabeth’s story unfolds, prominent figures from history cross their path, including Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Benedict Arnold, John André, and John Adams, as well as participants in the Boston Massacre, the Sons of Liberty, the Battle of Long Island, Franklin’s Paris negotiations, and the Benedict Arnold treason plot.

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