Monday, April 17, 2017

Trailblazers in Black History: The Black Loyalists

John Singleton Copley - The Death of Major Peirson, 6 January 1781
(Click on the image to increase its size.) 

The American Revolutionary War:

It was 1775 and Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, had a strategy to subdue the rebellious Colonists. He offered freedom to any slave who would escape from his rebel 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. Black Soldiers fought 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 the plantations. Their departure from rebel-owned estates would seriously undermine the southern plantations 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 had taken refuge behind British Lines. By the summer of 1782, it became evident that the Americans were winning the war and the British began to make preparations for their departure.   

They left a number of blacks behind as they retreated, who were recaptured into slavery. Other Black Loyalists were resettled in Florida, the West Indies, and British North America ( Canada). More than 3,500, the largest group of Black Loyalists, were transported to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Additional information is available here.


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