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Gregory E. O'Malley, PhD
University of California, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA 95064-1077)
The Escapes of David George (1743-1810): An Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom in the Revolutionary Era

Research and writing of a biography of David George (1743-1810), who was born a slave and whose pursuit of freedom intersects with major events of the Revolutionary Era.

The Escapes of David George offers a biography of a man born enslaved in Virginia, who ran away repeatedly—to backcountry settlements, to Native American communities, and finally to the British Army during the Revolutionary War. As a refugee, he then moved to Nova Scotia and finally to the British colony of Sierra Leone for emancipated slaves. Since George’s life spanned the revolutionary era, his story offers a counterpoint to the many biographies of America’s white founders. Instead of typical narratives about political freedom from British monarchy, George’s life presents a parallel quest for freedom from American slavery. To achieve his own independence, George fled the U.S. at its creation. As the NEH looks toward the 250th anniversary of American independence, David George offers a vantage point on the lines of exclusion that limited liberty in the new nation, while also providing an inspiring story of an enslaved man’s quest for the ideal that “all men are created equal.”

Project fields:
African American History; British History; U.S. History

Public Scholars

Research Programs

$60,000 (approved)
$60,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2021 – 6/30/2022