Black Loyalists: Home Page
Welcome to the Black Loyalists Digital Collections site.
This site explores an untold story of our nation's history: how Canada became the home of the first settlements of free blacks outside Africa.
As Revolution began in the thirteen American colonies in the late 1770s, the British were badly outnumbered. When in desperation they promised freedom to any slave of a rebel who fought the Americans on their behalf, the response was greater than they could have imagined; as many as 30 000 slaves escaped to British lines. Working as soldiers, labourers, pilots, cooks, and musicians, they were a major part of the unsucessful British war effort. As defeat became inevitable, these free blacks were evacuated to Nova Scotia with the other Loyalists.
But their hoped-for promised land never arrived. Their land was never granted, and most were reduced to a position not so different from slavery, where they were dependent on the meagre wages they could earn from manual labour. In the end most chose to seek a new life in Sierra Leone, away from the cold lands where they had experienced so much prejudice.
This is the story of those Black Loyalists.
To learn more about the Black Loyalist story, click on the Our Story icon to the left and begin reading the story of their experience. In the People section you can read short biographies of prominent Black Loyalists, and the Communities section contains descriptions and maps of the various Black Loyalist communities.
The chronological timeline at the bottom of the page can be freely scrolled to the left and right. Clicking on an event of interest will load a page that describes the event. If you don't see a timeline, click on the site logo to reload the page with frames.
The Documents section contains a number of original historical documents which we have transcribed for your use, including several first hand accounts of life as a Black Loyalist in Nova Scotia. In addition we have court records, official proclamations, personal letters, and a wealth of other material, all of which may be cited at your leisure. A separate page describes a number of valuable secondary sources, historians, and web sites you may wish to consult for further information.
There is an active Black Loyalist Society in Birchtown, N.S. which sponsored the development of this site. If you would like to contact them to research your genealogy or learn more about their archaeological projects or museums, take a look at the Loyalists Now section.
We hope you appreciate the site, and if you'd like to contact the development team to thank us or have us work for you, look in the Feedback section.
This Digital Collection was produced under contract to Canada's Digital Collections Program, Industry Canada.