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The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  336 ratings  ·  63 reviews

Illuminates how the preservation of slavery was a motivating factor for the Revolutionary War

The successful 1776 revolt against British rule in North America has been hailed almost universally as a great step forward for humanity. But the Africans then living in the colonies overwhelmingly sided with the British. In this trailblazing book, Gerald Horne shows that in t

Hardcover, 252 pages
Published April 18th 2014 by New York University Press
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Jesse L
Jun 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really wanted to absolutely love this book. I wanted to 5 star it and have it a favorite and recommend it to everyone.

It's full of information and historical analysis pointing to the wholly correct and anti-racist conclusion that American independence was largely spurred by American obsession with enslaving Africans and the creation of white identity. Horne provides countless examples and events explaining the creation of whiteness, the uprisings of Africans, and the disgusting attitudes of Eu
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-fun, 2014, arc
This was originally published on my blog:

As a graduate student, my comprehensive exam lists were filled with books that reinterpreted the history of slavery using new documentary sources, revealing a history where slaves exercised agency and resisted the harsh conditions in which they lived. While the history of slavery during the antebellum period has been extensively analyzed and documented, the history of slavery during the colonial period has been pai
Mar 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, factual, 2014
History or polemic?

In a simplified nutshell, Gerald Horne’s argument in this book is that the Revolution was in large measure a response to the colonists’ fear of London’s drive towards abolition of slavery.

Horne argues that slavery underpinned every aspect of the pre-1776 economy and as such was seen as crucial by the colonists, even while slave resistance was growing and slave revolts were becoming more common. The Royal African Company’s loss of monopoly over the slave trade in the la
Donna Davis
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Generally I don’t review a book till I have read every last word. I make an exception only when I find work so excellent that I am convinced that if the book ended right where I am, right now (about 75 percent through, and of course I checked the sources), it would still be worth the full cover price. I will read the rest, but you need to know about this book RIGHT NOW.

Reading this galley, courtesy of the publisher, New York University, via Net Galley, made me feel as if the American history I s
Jay Rothermel
Feb 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
Whatever one thinks about Horne's thesis, this book does not do it justice. Horne is a sloppy, careless writer relying on euphemism and the crass generalizations. The Counterrevolution of 1776 reads like the gush of a first-draft.

NYU Press should never have allowed the work published without copy-editing the most embarassing and self-defeating stylistic infelicities. They should have done this to protect their author, if nothing else.
William West
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some leftist historians still consider the coming into being of the United States as a positive, progressive development. Undeniably, the struggle for American independence from the Crown directly inspired the French Revolution, which in turn served as an inspiration for the revolutions in Russia and China and so on. But Gerald Horne, the Marxist historian of the African-American experience, here persuasively argues that the war for American independence constituted a counter-revolution. Horne c ...more
Randall Wallace
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Gerald shows Americans what led the colonists to revolt against England was the Somerset Case of 1772 and Dunmore’s Edict of 1775. The potential of Britain outlawing slavery soon in the colonies became the revolutionary tipping point. English like Samuel Johnson, saw colonists pratting on about ‘liberty’ while happily completely depriving their slaves of it. Even New England was making a killing in profits from the slave trade; it wasn’t just the southern colonies. To unite the country, the futu ...more
Daniel Koch
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
As an 18th century history nerd I found Horne's argument to be pretty persuasive. Essentially, he argues that London's move towards the abolition of slavery was a primary cause of the rebellion and independence of its American Colonies.

I was aware of the slave revolts in the Caribbean colonies, and of course knew about the mass importation of slaves into North American in the 18th century. What I didn't know was how the unraveling of the RAC (Royal African Company) in 1688 led to capitalistic o
David Buccola
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A bold rethinking of the Revolution of 1776

This is a fantastic book. Gerald Horne has gone a long way toward undermining the supposed avant guard and progressive nature of the Revolution of 1776; pointing out, in extreme detail, that the real flaw of the founding fathers was that “they objected to a government that sought to protect peaceful Indians from the theft of their land and feared a court system that had started to have some grave doubts about enforcing slavery.”

One of the things I part
This is a powerful, scholarly, well-informed overview of how the pervasive spread not just of slavery, but of slavery of Africans, was importantly connected to the American Revolution.

As part of this, Home shows that, decades before the Somerset decision of 1772 that freed a slave brought from Virginia to England, Americans (or proto-Americans, or mainlanders) feared just such a ruling.

Home leads up to this by showing that both the colonies and London, before 1700 in the Caribbean and by soon af
Koen Crolla
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, pol-and-soc
Horne traces the deliberate creation and cultivation of anti-black racism and an artificial white identity in the British American colonies, and makes the case that the American revolution was significantly inspired by a perception that London was on the brink of abolishing of slavery.

I'm only giving this book five stars because it's such an important topic and Horne does manage to communicate his points; the way in which he does so is so tedious that I'd probably subtract two stars for it in an
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: try-again-later
Excellent. So much in here even I did not know. This book explains many things which have transpired since what was obviously a counter revolution of white supremacist settlers and which established a white settler republic. I wish I were in high school again and stepped forward in my American History class with a "book report" on this book. What fun that would be. For anyone who reads this book, 1776 will never be the same.

Outstanding work, well documented, and somewhat horrifying to boot.

Rick Saling
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I did not know about the British use of armed Africans in colonial conflicts, and the problems that caused with pre-US colonists.

I am becoming increasingly convinced that "settler-colonialist" is the correct way to understand the US, and it is apparent why we really don't learn much about the pre-1776 history of North America.
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book, but it did tend to repeat itself a lot.
R.J.Cicisly Jr.
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you’ve ever watched the author speak , he talks as he writes. He’s on TRNN all the time as a guest analyst. This book was a slow read. It almost seems like it was a transcript of numerous lectures put together into a manuscript without stringent editing and proofreading .
I still found it very interesting. After watching him talk about the book, I put it on my reading list and finally read it. I lucked out one day when I was in Barnes & Noble waiting for new tires to be put on my car, I saw
Dec 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was worthwhile to me for the colonial history of British North America and the Caribbean. In particular, I found the demographics of states during this period useful (they are interspersed throughout the beginning half of the book).

Horne argues that the privatization of slave trading post 1688 played a critical role in the development of productive forces in British North America. First, because this encouraged the growth of slavery on territory that was in need of labor (also contributing
Patricia Muhammad
May 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America by Gerald Horne pps. 349, New York, NYU Press (2014)
Reviewed by: Patricia M. Muhammad
Originally published in: 101:3 Journal of African American History (formerly the Journal of Negro History):

Professor Gerald Horne's book guides the reader to analyze the motives of opponents and advocates of the international slave trade in relation to pivotal events leading t
Billie Pritchett
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
Historian Gerald Horne's Counter-Revolution of 1776 tells the story of black slaves in America and in service of the American colonies from, roughly, the 17th century until the independence of the country from England. Horne goes to show how American independence was a major loss for the slaves. One of the main reasons was because England was actually moving away from slavery and didn't like the fact that the American colonies were beginning to rely upon slave labor. After the American independe ...more
Peter Bradley
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Please give my Amazon review a helpful vote -

The Counter-revolution of 1776 by Gerald Horne

I read the Counter-Revolution of 1776 by Gerald Horne at the same time that I read "No Property in Man" by Sean Wilentz. Two books make first rate bookends for the subject. The former deals with the influence slavery on politics in the American colonies up to 1776 and the latter takes up the same subject from the Constitutional Convention of 1789 up to the Civil War
Nicholas Aune
Aug 21, 2016 rated it liked it
The book examines the fact that the more radical sects of the Revolution were abandoned for a fairly conservative movement that meant to protect North American economic interests rather than any sort of typical revolutionary agenda. It was a very good , well researched read, but I wish the author looked more at the dismay felt by the many poor , young radicals that first joined the Revolution only to have their plans and agenda scrapped.
Elizabeth von Teig
A compelling premise, The Counter-Revolution of 1776 turns out to be less focused than one would expect, with the bulk of the book being about 17th century or early 18th century events instead of the lead up to the Revolution. The book also fails to represent any diversity of opinions from the time, opting to depict Britain as unilaterally abolitionist, and failing to analyze the motives of the non-slave owning whites in the colonies.
Steven Fake
Jan 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Stimulating thesis and lots of good info, even if I suspect the central theme overreaches a bit and, in its maximal form, probably doesn't withstand scrutiny. Those who don't have much patience for historical preliminary context in repetitive detail may want to skip straight to the last chapter or two. ...more
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Would be five stars, but I had one problem. Honestly it gets a bit repetitive. It goes over the same thing over and over again. To be fair, it's actually because it's extremely well sourced and unfortunately the people of the colonies were very, very, very clear about their thoughts on slavery and the dangers of London's abolition and the various slave revolts. Seeing the Londoners skeptically respond to the colonists cries of liberty - literally hypocritically asking for "freedom" from England ...more
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
According to Gerald Horne, prolific historian of settler colonialism and African history, the United States of America was not inevitable. Nor was it particularly a positive development for enslaved Africans. While this might come as a surprise for some, if you've read Horne's work, it shouldn't. The Counter-Revolution of 1776 argues that the American colonists' revolt against the British Crown in 1776 constituted a counterrevolution against rebellious and impossible to control enslaved Africans ...more
Seymour Millen
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
As Horne notes at the end of this book, the American revolution has escaped a great deal of the criticism afforded to almost every other revolution. I suspect this is simply American exceptionalism, although in this case afforded a great deal of rationalisation, like Arendt's claim that America lacked the “spectacle of human misery” or the “haunting voices of abject poverty,” so the founding fathers had no need to devote themselves to anything other than the ideals of the enlightenment. I confes ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After just the prologue and intro, I was already riveted and fascinated by the ideas and interpretations based on extensive research reaching back before 1776 and beyond the borders of the 13 colonies. I’ve been grappling with the question of slavery’s place in the Revolution and development of the US post-independence, and was fascinated to see the sense Horne made of it based on his wide-angle, counter-hegemonic lens.

It was such a revelation--and I thought I was well-educated about slavery and
Henry Olivas
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
As others have pointed out on this forum, Dr. Horne's occasionally esoteric word choices, odd sentence structure, repetitiveness and non-linear timeline tend to make parts of this book a struggle. Strange, because Dr. Horne, who's a frequent guest on Pacifica radio, is much more straightforward when on-air.
That said, this fascinating book is still worth the read. Indeed, it helped to confirm what I've long suspected: that the so-called "Founding Fathers" were spectacular hypocrites for all thei
Douglas Grion Filho
Aug 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Have some conflicting thoughts on this one. For one I absolutely loved the main argument from this book: that the war for British north american independence was a counter-revolution wanting to maintain the institution of slavery. It is smart, well research, and beautifully defended by Horne. On the other hand, I absolutely hated his writing. This book suffers from academia exclusionary writing. Horne makes his sentences so complicated and hard to understand for absolutely no reason other than f ...more
Merricat Blackwood
This was a fascinating read that really enriched my understanding of the colonial period in American history. You could use this book, Force and Freedom, and This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed to teach a mini-seminar on the untaught history of Black resistance. I found it hard to read at times, which may be less a criticism than a note that the target audience is other specialists. The thesis of the book hinges on the Somerset case, but I had to go to Wikipedia to learn the actual facts of ...more
Michael Webb
May 24, 2019 rated it liked it
If I was rating this text purely based on its merits as a historical argument, then it would likely rate at least a 4, if not a 5. Horne's slave-centric revision to the origins of the American Revolution is well-argued and exhaustively footnoted (~400 page text; it includes ~150 pages of footnotes).

The main problem for me comes in form that it takes; if there was ever a text that needed an editor with an eye toward mass distribution this is it. I hold a graduate degree in History and am used to
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Dr. Gerald Horne is an eminent historian who is Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. An author of more than thirty books and one hundred scholarly articles and reviews, his research has addressed issues of racism in a variety of relations involving labor, politics, civil rights, international relations, war and the film industry.

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