Mr Salem Poor (1747-1802) was an African-American slave who bought his freedom, joined the army, and became a hero of the Revolutionary War.
Salem was born a slave in Massachusetts. He bought his freedom from his owner, the farmer John Poor aged 22 for £27, an average working man’s annual salary at the time.
In 1775, Poor enlisted and joined troops who were countering the British occupation of Boston. His gallantry during the Battle of Bunker Hillso impressed his fellow soldiers that they petitioned the General Court of Massachussetts saying:
“The Subscribers beg leave to Report to your Honorable. House (which we do in justice to the Character of so Brave a man) that under Our Own observation, we declare that A Negro Man Called Salem Poor of Col. Fryes Regiment, Capt. Ames. Company in the late Battle of Charleston, behaved like an Experienced Officer, as Well as an Excellent Soldier, to Set forth Particulars of his Conduct would be Tedious, We Would Only beg leave to say in the Person of this Negro Centers a Brave & gallant Soldier.”
Poor had to leave the army when George Washington prohibited black men from serving in 1775, however re-enlisted as soon as Washington changed his position shortly after. He fought with the Patriot forces until 1780.
Poor was commemorated with a stamp as part of the United States Bicentennial in 1975. Poor Street in Andover is named after him.