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Mon, 06.27.1791

Richard Preston, Canadian Religious Leader, born

Richard Preston

*The birth of Richard Preston is celebrated on this date, c. 1791. He was a Black Canadian religious leader and abolitionist.

Richard Preston is believed to have been born into slavery in Virginia but managed to gain an education and save enough to buy his freedom in 1816. He went to Nova Scotia in search of his mother, who had escaped slavery in the War of 1812. She was one of the 2000 Africans who fled to the British after the Cochrane Proclamation and settled in Nova Scotia, where they became known as the War of 1812 Refugees.

Discovering his mother, who he had not seen for many years, free and alive in Preston, Nova Scotia, he took the name of her community. Preston was "light-skinned" and "6'1" in height. He was never married. He was known as a gifted orator for his sense of humor. Baptist minister John Burton mentored Preston. He was trained as a minister in England.

He met many of the leading voices in the abolitionist movement that helped to get the Slavery Abolition Act passed by the British Parliament in 1833. When Preston returned to Nova Scotia, he became the president of the Abolitionist movement in Halifax. He established the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church, the African Abolition Society, and the African Baptist Association. He established a school for Black students and refurbished the Church of England school for black students in 1785.

Preston became one of the most important churches and community leaders in Nova Scotia. He assisted in setting up 11 Baptist churches across the province. He died on July 16, 1861. He was designated a Person of National Historic Significance by Parks Canada in 2005 for his religious leadership, community building, and contributions to the struggle against slavery. East Preston and North Preston, Nova Scotia, are often believed to be named in his honor, although it was these communities that inspired his name.

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