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On this date in 1783 Birchtown, Nova Scotia was established. This was one of the largest free Black settlements in North America in the 18th century.
Their beginning actually started with the American Revolutionary War and Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia. He offered freedom to any African slave in the colony’s who would escape from his master and fight on the side of those loyal to the British Crown. More than 300 Blacks immediately found their way behind British Lines and formed The Ethiopian Regiment. African slave Soldiers who fought for the British did so in the belief that they were securing freedom, not only for themselves, but for all enslaved Blacks.
The British were confident, because slaves made up 20% of the American population, that if they could convince them to join the ranks, the Colonial uprising would be squelched. By 1779, the British saw another reason for luring slaves from American plantations. Their departure from rebel-owned estates would seriously undermine the southern plantation’s economy. British extended their offer of freedom to include grants of land and provisions to the former slaves once the rebellion was defeated. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 slaves took refuge behind British Lines. By the summer of 1782, the Americans were winning the war and the British prepared to leave. They left a number of Blacks behind who were recaptured into slavery. Other Black Loyalists were resettled in Florida, the West Indies, and Canada.
More than 3,500, the largest group of Black Loyalists made it to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The Loyalist colonies were not equipped to maintain the influx of thousands of new citizens. A priority system was established to serve the newest citizens to British North America. White officers and Gentlemen were served first in terms of rations and land grants. Ordinary Privates and Laboring people, among the Whites, had to wait. The Blacks, coming up last, rarely received the land or rations promised to them. With a population of more than 2,500, (at the time) Birchtown Nova Scotia became the largest settlement of free Blacks outside Africa. There were 649 male heads of families in Birchtown during the muster of 1784. Out of bureaucratic incompetence and racial inequality, only 184 heads of families received the promised crown land. These lands averaged 34 acres.
Other Black Loyalists settled communities were Port Mouton (Later Liverpool); Brindy Town (Near Digby); Musket Greenville (Near Yarmouth); Little Tracadie (Guysbourough County); Preston (Halifax County), Annapolis Royal, Halifax and Saint John, New Brunswick.
The Black Loyalist Heritage Society
Po Box 1194
104 Birchtown Rd.