James Armistead Lafayette

Back to Minorities Matter

James Armistead Lafayette
Permission granted to use this picture by the CIA.

James Armistead Lafayette is the unsung hero of the Revolutionary War. His work led to the American victory at the Battle of Yorktown. Here's a little background on his amazing life.


  • Born into slavery in 1759 in New Kent County, Virginia as James Armistead
  • Died in 1830 in New Kent County

  • In 1781 Benedict Arnold and General Cornwallis called him into service for Britian during Revolutionary War
  • Acted as a double agent for America
  • Appointed to work for French noble Marquis de Lafayette on American side
  • Helped by relaying British plans back to American leaders
  • Gathered information that led to General Cornwallis' surrender at the Battle of Yorktown
  • Took the name Lafayette to honor the Frenchman who inspired James so much
  • Given his freedom by Virginia legislature due to his importance in winning the Revolutionary War
  • Quote:
    After the war, Marquis de Lafayette had nothing but praise for his spy. "... services to me while I had the honuor to command in this state. His intelligences from the enemy's cap were industriously collected and most faithfully deliver'd. He properly acquitted himself with some important commisions I gave him and appears to me entitled to every reward his situation can admit of" (Lafayette, Marquis de in Abdul-Jabbar and Steinberg p.33-34).


    The Battle of Yorktown
    The last major Battle of the Revolutionary War.


    Links to additional information on Lafayette

    New Kent Historical Society notables

    CIA Kids page



    Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem and Alan Steinberg. Black Profiles in Courage. New York: William Morrow and Company Inc., 1996.



    Lafayette, Marquis de in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Alan Steinberg. Black Profiles in Courage. New York: William Morrow and Company Inc., 1996.



    by: E.V. 1 sophomore at Lansing Catholic Central High School