JUNE 17, 1775

Peter Salem became a hero in the American Revolution. He had been born into slavery in Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1750 and was freed to fight in the revolution. 

After Americans began the British army, British Maj. John Pitcairn demanded that the Americans surrender. When they didn’t, he waved his sword and rallied the British troops to counterattack. He led the charge over the hill, reportedly yelling out, “The day is ours!” As he did, a Black soldier stepped forward and shot Pitcairn, according to eyewitnesses. 

“As news of Pitcairn’s death spread, the morale for the American cause skyrocketed,” according to the American Battlefield Trust. Salem, who was generally credited with shooting Pitcairn, survived the battle and continued to serve in the Army for another five years. 

Following the war, he married Katy Benson and worked as a cane weaver. He was buried in a pauper’s grave in Framingham, but in 1882, the townspeople erected a monument to honor him. He is also depicted in John Trumbull’s famous painting of the Bunker Hill battle.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.