- “The Black Loyalist Heritage Centre represents the very best of opportunity, community activism and commitment to grow in the wake of oppression and loss. In 2006, an arsonist set fire to the office of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, destroying many of its valuable archives and historical papers. Instead of being defeated by the act of aggression, the staff, board members and volunteers of the Society pursued a dream they had already been nourishing to build an interpretive centre that would do justice to the complex story of its people.
People of African descent have been in what is now Canada since the opening years of the 17th century, but the first massive wave of Black immigration into Canada took place in 1783, when about 3,000 Black Loyalists fled New York City after aiding the British on the losing side of the American Revolutionary War and sailed to Nova Scotia. They settled in Annapolis Royal, Digby and Saint John (then Nova Scotia) among other communities, but the largest Black settlement became Birchtown, just outside the booming town of Shelburne.
The story of the Black Loyalists — how they served the British in the war in exchange for the promise of freedom in peacetime, and how they travelled to Nova Scotia only to endure hardships of slavery, indentured servitude, landlessness and hunger — is one of the great stories of Canadian history. Their perseverance, as well as the decision made by about 1,200 of them to leave Canada and to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to found the colony of Freetown in Sierra Leone in 1792 — suggests the breadth and complexity of the world-wide migrations they had experienced as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its aftermath. Although many Nova Scotians joined the exodus to Sierra Leone in 1792, even more stayed behind to continue to build the province of Nova Scotia as we know it today.
Their descendants stand proudly as members of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society and as creators of this Centre.”
Author of The Book of Negroes
The Black Loyalist Heritage Society officially announced the naming of the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre – presented by Emera at the Ground Breaking Ceremony on June 27, 2012. ”Emera and its shareholders are extremely proud to support our local communities” says Chris Huskilson, President and CEO of Emera Inc. “The Black Loyalist story is compelling and inspiring, and celebrating this history nurtures the vitality of the community as a whole.”
1st Anniversary Celebrations of the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre are scheduled for July 22-24 2016.
Funding for this project was made possible by the following government agencies:
Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, Canadian Heritage
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Citizenship & Immigration Canada, Inter-Action Program
The Province of Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture & Heritage
The Nova Scotia Museum Board of Governors
The Municipality of the District of Shelburne
The Town of Shelburne
We would also like to extend our sincere appreciation to our many private donors. Your donations helped to ensure our centre was built so that we can preserve the Black Loyalist story and tell it both to our children and grandchildren and to the many visitors to our province from near and far. We thank you for helping us to recover our heritage.
It’s a history few in the region know much about.
CBC Reporter Jon Tattrie looks at whether a new building can help change that. Click on the link to listen to an audio clip. http://www.cbc.ca/atlanticvoice/2016/02/08/birchtown/