The Black Loyalists The American Revolution or The War of Independence

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The Black Loyalists

The American Revolution or The War of Independence

  • 1775 to 1783

  • An armed conflict broke out between Britain and her 13 colonies

  • The 13 colonies did not want to pay increased taxes to Britain.


  • A loyalist was someone who joined the British side of the war.

  • The political name for the Loyalists was Tories.


  • If you fought against the British and wanted to become an independent nation, you were called a patriot.

Lord Dunmore

  • Governor of Virginia

  • Offered freedom, equality, land & provisions to all enslaved Africans that would take up arms and fight for Britain

  • Those that did fight for Britain were called Black Loyalists

Dunmore’s Proclamation

  • His Proclamation was the first mass emancipation of slaves in American history

A Letter to Escaped Slaves

  • To deter slaves from running away, slave owners would beat their runaway slaves and wash their wounds with salt.

  • There was a letter printed in a newspaper claiming that the British were planning on selling slaves to the West Indies sugar plantations.

  • The Virginia Assembly also declared that the penalty for runaway slaves was death, but if they turned themselves in they would pardoned.

The Ethiopian Regiment

  • • The Royal Ethiopian Regiment was the first black fighting unit of the Revolution.

  • • They were trained in musket shooting and formation marching

  • • They had special uniforms with the insignia “Liberty to Slaves” embroidered on them.

Philipsburg Proclamation

  • Lord Dunmore’s policy became an economic warfare policy.

  • Plantations were supporting the rebels and as slaves were escaping this was weakening the enemies economy

  • The Patriots also had to use soldiers to guard their plantations, instead of using them for battles

Philipsburg Proclamation

  • Sir Henry Clinton issued the Philipsburg Proclamation in 1779

  • It expanded Dunmore’s Proclamation.

  • It stated that any runaway slave, from any colony, would be issued their freedom, whether they fought for Britain or not.

  • Clinton issued the Black Pioneers to be formed.

Black Loyalists

  • In 1779, the British formed 2 military groups:

  • 1. The Black Pioneers

  • 2. The Black Cavalry Troop

  • • The Guides and The Black Brigade formed later

Uniform of the Black Pioneers

Black Soldiers

  • They served as scouts, raiders and military engineers.

  • They dug fortifications, built huts and accommodations

  • The Black Brigade were guerillas that conducted raids, stole supplies and assassinated Patriots across New Jersey.

  • Their leader was Colonel Tye

Colonel Tye

  • Born a slave

  • His birth name was Titus

  • Was one of the original leaders of the Ethiopian Regiment

  • He was the most feared Loyalist in New Jersey

  • He was the most effective and respected black soldier of the American Revolution

  • Tye died of a muskeet shot to the wrist

Americans used Black Soldiers

  • Congress issued a lottery-based draft law that increased Black soldiers in their army

  • It stated that free males, between 16 and 50 years of age were to be enrolled into militias & military companies

Crispus Attucks

  • He was killed in 1770 during the Boston Massacre

  • The Massacre began because a British soldier was accused of not paying for a haircut. The soldier struck the barber’s assistant, a young boy

  • Church bells were alarmed and a group of men (Patriots), confronted the soldiers.

  • A riot broke out and Attucks moved to the front of the Americans. He hit a soldier with a stick and the soldier shot him

  • Considered to be the 1st martyr of the American Revolution

New York

  • When the American victory became certain, thousands of people of African descent, free and enslaved, made their way to one of the last British strongholds, New York.

The Deal

  • Agreements were made between:

  • 1. Sir Guy Carleton

  • (The British Commander)

  • &

  • 2. George Washington

  • (The new President of the USA)

The Deal

  • The agreement they made was to allow those enslaved and free people, who joined the British before 1779, to be removed to British owned territories.

  • Others who joined after 1779, were given back to their owners or sold to the West Indies

Certificates of Freedom

  • When the war ended the Treaty of Paris was being drafted, all blacks leaving New York were issued certificates of freedom.

  • Their names were also recorded in a log book known as Carleton’s Book of Negroes

Treaty of Paris: 1783

Fleets sail for Nova Scotia


  • The Black Loyalists were offered the same as the White Loyalists: Freedom, equality, land & provisions for 3 years.

  • They arrived in the Maritimes between 1783 and 1785.

  • White Loyalists also came to the Maritimes and brought their slaves with them

Nova Scotia Settlements

Nova Scotia Settlements

  • Shelburne

  • (Port Roseway)

  • Birchtown

  • Preston

  • Halifax

  • Brindley Town

  • Tracadie

  • Annapolis

  • Weymouth

  • Sydney Area

  • Lincolnville


  • Approximately 50,000 new people arrived in Nova Scotia, which tripled the population.

  • 3,500 were Free Black Loyalists

  • 1,500 were slaves, & indentured servants of White Loyalists

  • Majority settled in Shelburne County (1,500)

    • Indentured servants and slaves settled in Shelburne.
    • Free blacks settled in Birchtown


  • Birchtown was settled in 1783 by the Stephen Blucke, commander of the Black Pioneers

  • Blucke was ordered to organize the clearing and construction of Shelburne and to settle the Black Loyalists in Birchtown

  • 1,200 Black Loyalists settled there.


  • They called their settlement Birchtown after Samuel Birch, the commander in New York who signed their freedom certificates

  • Birchtown, at its peak, was the largest free Black community in the world, outside of Africa

Master Book of Blacks in Birchtown

The Land

  • The land they received was rocky, infertile and was covered with thick forests.

  • Most of the white loyalists were town merchants and never cleared land before.

  • The Black Pioneers had experience in clearing land and cutting down trees; therefore, most of the brute labour was left up to them.

The Land

  • The Black Loyalists were the last to receive land

  • Many did not receive town lots

  • Many could not afford to have their land surveyed and therefore, could not build on it.

  • They did not receive the proper tools to clear their land or to build shelters.

  • Their settlements were in isolated communities that were far from main towns.


  • Log cabins were the most common shelters, but you needed time & $ to build them

  • Black settlers could not afford them, as they had to contribute 3 days of work per week in order to receive rations.

  • Birchtown became known as “the land of huts” because not many foundations were built


  • Most of the Black Loyalists were from the Southern parts of the USA and were not familiar with harsh winters

  • They did not know how to build shelters to combat the winter months

  • They had simple huts, with wicker walls and birch bark for roofs

  • In 1787, many white loyalists were leaving the area and abandoning their homes. The magistrate seized the homes for not paying taxes and tore them down instead of letting of the black settlers move in.


  • In most jobs, blacks only received about a ¼ of the wages a white man would receive.

  • Blacks were considered valuable employees because many of them were skilled tradesmen, who would accept lower wages to get a job.

  • White employers could easily exploit them as the law did not protect them

  • The fishing industry was the most attractive career for blacks because it was the one job where they were paid the same was whites.

Shelburne Riot of 1784

  • Another name for Shelburne was Blacktown

  • Blacks were denied the right to vote or have a trial by jury

  • Blacks were given harsh punishments for small crimes.

  • For example, a man was sentenced to have 350 lashes for stealing a few small items.

  • Another man was whipped all over town (20 lashes at 5 stops) and sentenced to 5 years of indentured servitude

  • Banishment and forced labour were common punishments

  • One man was sentenced to force labour for “eyeing a man’s potato patch too hungrily”

Shelburne Riot of 1784

  • They were banned from dances and gambling

  • Offenders were convicted and thrown in jail

  • They were eventually banned from any non-religious gatherings

  • Repeat offenders had their homes seized

  • White Loyalists blamed Black Loyalists from taking jobs away from them by accepting lower wages.

  • They were angry about not getting their land surveyed in the time promised to them

  • Racial tensions arose

Shelburne Riot of 1784

  • David George was the leading Baptist minister among blacks

  • He started to baptize whites, which outraged the whites

  • A white mob went to David George’s the next day and tied ropes to the house and pulled the house down.

  • They then did the same to his followers’ homes

  • They destroyed the black homes and beat them out of town

  • Many blacks fled to Birchtown,

  • leaving all their belongings behind

Shelburne Riot of 1784

  • David George hid in a swamp, but was found and beaten. He eventually fled to Birchtown.

  • The white mob wanted to hang Marston, the man responsible for land distribution, but he was warned and fled.

  • The population of Birchtown doubled.

  • The mob still attacked black travelers the next month until Halifax sent in troops to restore order

Shelburne Riot of 1784

  • Governor Parr was outraged by the unlawfulness and used Marston as a scapegoat by accusing him of taking bribes.

  • Marston was fired and the Port Roseway Associates were put in charge of land distribution.

  • Blacks were now completely left out of land distribution and aid was never offered to the blacks that lost their homes and land

  • Governor Parr was not concerned about helping the victims of the riot, but giving the rioters what they wanted

Shelburne Riot of 1784

  • This was known as North America’s 1st race riot


  • In 1789, there was a wide-spread famine in North America that was caused by a series of harsh winters and poor harvests.

  • Many still did not receive their land, and those that did, received infertile land.

  • Blacks suffered the most, as they were the last to get aid.


  • Nova Scotia earned the nickname Nova Scarcity because the population tripled with the arrival of the loyalists & the British stopped supporting them which caused extreme poverty in the province.

  • Most of the White Loyalists left Nova Scotia to return to the USA

  • The Black Loyalists did not have that option; if they left they risked being put into slavery or facing death.

  • The Blacks became dependent on charity, as their white employers left taking jobs away and they still did not receive suitable farmland


  • Many blacks had to become indentured servants

  • Many turned to theft to prevent starvation, but the punishments were harsh:

  • - Many were whipped severely

  • - One woman was executed for stealing a bag of potatoes in Halifax

  • - Alicia Wiggins was also executed for stealing a used dress, despite the fact that she was pregnant

  • - Many faced fines that they could not afford which turned them into indentured servants.


  • Many blacks became sharecroppers.

  • This was when they would work on a white man’s land and give him ½ their crops

  • The sharecropper would have to save seed for next season’s crop

  • This made them stay in constant debt.

  • The white land owners would give the black sharecroppers land that was not cleared. Once the blacks made the land into suitable farm land, the white land owners would move them to another part of their land that was not cleared.

Indentured Servants

  • Often blacks became indentured servants to pay off debts.

  • Most were tricked into longer contracts, as they could not read or write.

  • Parents who couldn’t support their children, would often indenture them, so they could learn a trade.

  • Some masters would sell their servants as slaves to outsiders of NS

  • Some blacks were kidnapped and sold off to the West Indies

Thomas Peters

  • Many blacks decided that Canada was not the Promise Land they thought.

  • Thomas Peters was selected to go to London, England with a petition of grievances

  • While in England he met with the Sierra Leone Company

The Sierra Leone Company

  • The Sierra Leone Company was formed by a group of abolitionists, who wanted to help the homeless blacks of London

  • They were looking for free blacks to relocate to Sierra Leone, Africa

John Clarkson

  • The company sent John Clarkson, an agent, to Nova Scotia in 1791 to recruit free, Christian blacks

  • Blacks were promised free passage and were granted land when they arrived in SL.

  • They planned for 500 to go, but 1100 signed up

  • He appointed David George, Thomas Peters and John Ball to act as his deputies.

  • Clarkson recorded many of the Black Loyalists stories in his journal

Sierra Leone

  • 1,190 Black Loyalists left Nova Scotia in 1792 and sailed to Sierra Leone, Africa.

Brief Biographies

David George The 1st Black minister of NS

  • Was born a slave in Virginia

  • He had a cruel master and decided to run away

  • He worked with some white travelers, until they discovered there was an award for him

  • He left and worked for another white man.

  • He fled again and was captured by a native leader, Blue Salt

  • George stated that the natives treated him kindly

  • His master found him again and offered Blue Salt rum & cloth if he would return George to him

David George

  • George fled again before being captured.

  • He then became a slave to Gaulfin.

  • Here he met a black man named Cyrus that got him interested in preaching.

  • He began to give services

  • He learned to read and write from his master’s children and started to read the Bible.

  • During the American Revolution, his master left fleeing the British troops and George became free.

  • He provided the British with food and when the war was over, he was granted safe passage to NS.

David George

  • He went from Halifax to Shelburne and began preaching to & baptizing the blacks

  • After he baptized a white woman, the Shelburne Riot broke out.

  • He helped recruit black settlers to relocate to Sierra Leone.

Thomas Peters

  • He was a fugitive slave who joined the regiment the Black Pioneers

  • After the war, he came to Brindley Town.

  • He could not get farmland and left for Saint John

  • He traveled to England with a petition of Black Grievances

  • In England, he met with the Sierra Leone Co.

  • He then began to help recruit black settlers for Sierra Leone

Mary Postell

  • She was born a slave to a Patriot

  • She soon escaped and joined the British

  • She was given her certificate of freedom

  • Her certificate was taken from her, by someone who claimed to want to see her papers

  • She then went to work as a servant to Jesse Gray

  • Jesse sold her to his brother, but bought her back when he left for NS.

  • She thought that he was going to sell her in NS, so took her children and ran

Rose Fortune

  • Arrived in Annapolis at the age of 10

  • She established herself as a baggage carrier

  • She would meet ships at the port and transport their bags in her wheelbarrow

  • She also woke people up in their Inns so they could depart in time

  • She then became the police department for Annapolis, keeping the wharf under control.

  • She is considered Canada’s 1st female police officer

  • Her descendents are still in the trucking and hauling business.

  • Her great-great-granddaughter Daurene was elected Mayor of Annapolis Royal in 1984. She became Canada’s 1st female Black Mayor

Stephen Blucke

  • He was from Barbados

  • He was the commander of the company of Black Pioneers that arrived in Birchtown

  • He was the one that went out with surveyor, Marston, and agreed that the rocky land was suitable (Some say he agreed to lesson the conflict with the whites)

  • He was one of the 1st blacks in Shelburne to construct a boat for fishing

  • He had a lot of influence in the community. He was the connection between the whites and blacks.

  • He convinced many blacks to work as cheap labour for his white friends

  • He was the 1st to receive his lot of land (200 acres)

  • The rest only received theirs 4 years later (only 40 acres)

Stephen Blucke

  • He had the best house in Birchtown

  • He was the only member of the community allowed to attend the Anglican Church

  • He was considered the ‘Birch Magistrate’, as he helped people with petitions, enforced summary justice and oversaw land being sold.

  • Because he could write, he started to write petitions of behalf of other people for rations.

  • He ran the Black Militia which constructed the Annapolis Road

Stephen Blucke

  • Later, he became a teacher for black students in Birchtown

  • He wrote a petition to the government stating that they should not use public funds to transport people to Sierra Leone

  • In 1785, he was accused of stealing $ that was entrusted to him and decided to leave.

  • Some of his clothes were found on the side of the Annapolis Road and people believed that he was attacked by an animal while trying to escape

  • The $ was eventually discovered, but his body was not.

Lydia Jackson

  • She was from South Carolina was recorded in the Book of Negroes

  • She settled with her husband in Guyborough County.

  • Soon later, her husband left her.

  • Henry Hedley offered her to with him to be a companion for his wife.

  • After 1 week, he charged her room & board, which she could not afford.

  • She agreed to become indentured to him for 1 year to pay off her debt.

  • Lydia could not read and write and Henry tricked her by getting her to sign a contract for 39 years.

  • He then sold her Dr. Bolman of Lunenburg, who was a very cruel master

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