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The Black Boys and Blurred Lines

Reshaping Authority on the Pennsylvania Frontier

In: Journal of Early American History
Author:
Jay B. Donis Lehigh University, jbd410@lehigh.edu

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In 1765, frontiersmen in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania forcibly prohibited British officials and colonists from participating in the Indian trade, intercepting and destroying goods intended for Native Americans in the Ohio Country. Imperial officials and civil leaders in Pennsylvania condemned the actions of the so-called “Black Boys,” suggesting that they represented a form of insurrection. Close analysis of the Black Boys’ stated motivations, however, suggests that they did not seek an overthrow of royal rule. Instead, they sought a renegotiation of political power on the frontier, one in which local concerns and wishes tempered the exercise of imperial authority.

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