Black soldiers during the French regime

To protect its large occupied territories in North America, it was not unusual for the 17th and 18th century French regime to enlist some freed slaves under its banners. Explore this practice further in this mini-video!

Did you know that many black people enlisted as soldiers during the French regime in the 17th and 18th centuries?

A much more common practice in French Louisiana than in New France, it sometimes happened that freed slaves joined the local militias to defend the French territories.

To this end, several wealthy French colonists pleaded with the French king to encourage the practice of slavery in North America. In fact, in addition to being able to serve and work for them, the French colonists also sought to have slaves fulfill a third function: that of protecting them.

Nevertheless, this practice became more widespread in the United States and English-speaking Canada in the early 19th century. As the practice of slavery declined in these areas, it became increasingly common for black people (freed or not) to enlist in the military in the hope of earning a decent wage, benefits, or outright freedoms!

Musicians accompany regular troops during a parade in the late 18th century (source: English Heritage).

Cover photo: Free men enlisted in the Portuguese colonial army in Brazil during the 18th century (source: Black Perspectives).

A video edited and narrated by Aglaé Pinsonnault, and researched and written by Julien Lehoux for Je Me Souviens.