A Revolutionary Tale

Jeff Tufts

Gary Nash, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California at Los Angeles and Director of the National Center for History in the Schools, gave a lecture on the American Revolution in the Persson Hall Auditorium Monday evening as part of the Douglas T. Reading Lecture series. In the talk, he described the relationship among African-American Revolutionary War solider Agrippa Hull, Polish General Tadeusz Koscuiszco and Thomas Jefferson. Nash explained the story of Hull and Koscuiszco in detail. Hull, supposedly the son of an African prince, joined the Continental Army when the war broke out, eventually coming to serve as Koscuiszco’s orderly. Over the course of the war, Koscuiszco’s admiration for black soldiers grew, as did his disgust with slavery. “[He] learned that the indictments of Africans as inferior were dead wrong, and that slavery was at odds with the principles undergirding the American Revolution,” Nash said.After the war, Koscuiszco returned home, where he led an unsuccessful revolution against the Russians occupying Poland, and eventually returned to the U.S. He spent a considerable amount of time with Jefferson, who described Koscuiszco as being “as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known,” according to Nash. Koscuiszco left his pay from the Revolutionary War to Jefferson in his will, for the express purpose of freeing Jefferson’s slaves. However, Jefferson was unable to carry out the terms of the will. Hull returned to his hometown of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he retained his princely bearing and took to enlightening his neighbors about black culture. Nash, who earned his doctorate at Princeton University, has published over twenty works, and the subject of Monday’s talk was the same as that of his most recent project, which he co-authored with Colgate Professor of History Graham Hodges and is to be released in the fall of 2007.”[Nash’s] career demonstrates the breadth possible in a career that is limited only by your imagination,” Hodges said. For students, the exposure to such a renowned historian was an inspiring experience.”It was a thrill to meet one of the foremost historians of colonial America, especially because I have used so many of his books in classes and for papers,” senior History major Ethan Bennett said. “Professor Nash’s work is a constant reminder that this country was founded not just by rich, white men, but by people of many races and creeds who believed in the ideals of liberty.”