Slavery in Nova Scotia Essay

slavery / Nova Scotia / American Revolution / black community / Black Loyalist

Essay Topic:

The issue of slavery and inappropriate attitude towards black slaves in Nova Scotia.

Essay Questions:

Has slavery historical influenced the development of the national attitude towards minorities?

What was the situation with slavery in Nova Scotia back in 1780’s?

What was the peculiarity of the black community in Nova Scotia?

Thesis Statement:

This period is called the pre-Loyalist and the biggest advantage of the northern colonies back then was that black people were not necessarily slaves but as it was mentioned above – domestic workers.


Slavery in Nova Scotia Essay

Introduction: History has given us a lot of examples of how inequality can bring inevitable consequences. A man can never be a “master” of another man no matter what color of skin he has. Being a minority does not mean to be of as minor importance. Every man is in the first place a personality and our history is the best reflection of how people should not behave towards each other and a lesson of “respect” to all the people on our planet and their right to live and to be equal. The history of Nova Scotia in Canada has deep roots. The history behind Nova Scotia’s people is huge. To completely understand it we have to know the general situation back then. If we look back at the early 1600’s and even later we can see numerous plantations. The British colonists founded those plantations. They grew such agricultural plants as indigo, rice tobacco and many others to earn money and the money they earned was big. The landlords were in necessity of workers. They needed this “working force” to do field work at a minimum cost. This was the reason it was very convenient for them to enslave the native Indians first for their “working force” was almost of no cost. Later on the owners of the plantations found a new source of workers for the fieldwork –African slaves. It was cheap and these slaves were very harebrained. They could resist any load and their maintenance was very suitable for the landlords. Those people were born in Africa, nobody asked them whether they wanted to work on these plantations but they were taken against their will from their home country and had no other choice then to work in order to survive. This was the situation in the south of North America. In the northern colonies were not as merciless and the slaves worked as almost ordinary domestic workers. They were involved in road making, shoemaking lumbering, mining, and trades. This period is called the pre-Loyalist and the biggest advantage of the northern colonies back then was that black people were not necessarily slaves but as it was mentioned above – domestic workers. They were often treated respectively, but or course not always.

So unfortunately, there are records of slaves-sales and the most awful thing - they gave slaves as a inheritance to their children and relatives, on the same level with things and premises. It is even better to say that these slaves were actually an integral part of these premises. The first notes concerning the arrival of first black people to Nova Scotia are found as early as in 1606. The first slave to arrive to Nova Scotia was a black male from Portugal who immigrated to a French settlement. Nova Scotia was a bad place for the slaves in the first place because of the way they were treated and in the second place because the climate was not suitable for them. As the soil did not suit for agriculture black people were not used for “plantation business” but mostly for “personal domestic usage” slavery was an ordinary phenomena without a base connected with the Law. This whole period of time, the so-called pre-Loyalist period, lasted until the first Loyalists appeared. The Black Loyalists appeared in Nova Scotia between 1783 and 1785. The reason of this sudden movement was the American Revolution. They all escaped from the United States and immigrated to Nova Scotia. The main factor that caused the beginning of that was the argument between the British North American colonies and the British government. As the colonies started to prosper the British government started taking interest on this matter and decided that it should have the control over taxes in the colonies. It started interfering into the lifes of the colonies, dictating their very own rules of how they should develop. Unfortunately, the colonists had nobody to support them in the British Parliament and therefore could not avoid this war at no means. Their only way to fight for their “independence” from the British ruling was to declare themselves independent from Britain in publicity for both of these sided were not able to come to an agreement. And so the consequence of this “misunderstanding» was the American Revolution. And as the colonists were fighting for independence this war was also called the War of Independence. So this war was the cause that brought the Loyalists to a new place. The Black Loyalists first settled in the amount of nearly 3000 people in Nova Scotia. It was approximately 10% of all the people that immigrated to Nova Scotia. As officially Nova Scotia was “free of slavery” it was the main attractions that guided people to this place. The suggestion that black people would not have to be slaves anymore inspired them a lot. The settlements of Black Loyalist in Nova Scotia were founded in Annapolis Royal and in the areas of Cornwallis/Horton, Weymouth, Digby, Windsor, Preston, Sydney, Fort Cumberland, Parrsboro, Halifax, Shelburne, Birchtown, and Port Mouton. The reality was cruel, because racism did exist there and one of the examples of discrimination was a very little payment for the blacks for their work than for the work that white people presented. When somebody feels he is loosing he always resorts to extreme methods. Britain was obviously loosing and at that very moment it made a proclamation that stated: “any Negro to desert the rebel cause would receive full protection, freedom, and land1”. This notion was a real temptation for exhausted black slaves and thousands of them turned to the side of Britain, not even understanding that these were just hollow words of a loser.

In total, Americans won the war and signed “The treaty of Paris” in 1783. Papers called "certificates of freedom" were given for those who joined the British after their unconfirmed proclamation. Other blacks had an opportunity to emigrate. In was a black Nova Scotian Thomas Powers in 1790 to write a petition of protest from the Nova Scotia black Loyalists. The response of Britain was an offer of free immigration from Canada to Sierra Leone. Some people, looking for a better future decided to leave for Sierra Leone in the amount of around 2000 people in 1792. And though their working perspective was to keep working as servants they still decided to leave. A new proclamation was made in April 1814, it was intended for the slaves that still were in America, it offered:" defect to the British side in return for freedom and a promise of a new home in a British Colony2". The war between the United States and British North America was still in progress. The proclamation partly reached its goal for 2000 slave refugees left for Nova Scotia. These refugees faced a lot of problems for they did not get any support in their living and this resulted a lot of poverty. Though when emigrating the British promised these refugees food, clothing, and shelter. It was like pushing away an unnecessary person by giving false promises. As they broke the promise it was a very hard time for the blacks in Nova Scotia. These American black refugees had a life that was a struggle for survival and relying only on themselves. In spite of all that they remained devoted to their new home and even when there was a possibility to move to Sierra Leone they still remained in Nova Scotia. Only 95 refugees out of all left for Sierra Leone later. Another close event was the one concerning the relocation of the colonists of Africville. This event took a lot of moral strength from the black people. Nowadays there still exist mainly black communities in Nova Scotia and this is a result, worth of admiration. The largest settlement is Preston. It was founded in 1815.

Conclusion: Some famous names can be associated with Preston: Bundy, Sparks, Boyd, and Grant. There is also another popular settlement that was founded the same year with Preston – it is called Hammonds Plains. This community – Hammonds Plains is a known black community in Nova Scotia. Of course there are also other settlements, but they are not as big as Preston on Hammonds Plains. When somebody thinks of Nova Scotia they certainly think of Preston and Hammonds Plains. The lives of Black Nova Scotians are examples of dedication to a new land, these lives are very important in the history of Nova Scotia. Nowadays this is the matter of a culture that is already an integral part of Nova Scotia. This black culture enriched Nova Scotia’s culture and made the white population proud, too. Such people as Portia White (famous for her singing) and William Hall V.C.(during that war, Hall helped save a fleet of naval officers and was the first Canadian to receive Victoria Cross from Queen Victoria ) underline the meaning of this culture.

Summing it up, Canada’s history was greatly influenced by the arrival of the Loyalists. It is the influence that could have turned the history to a different side. Thousands of American refugees came in the country looking for a better place to live; 1\3 of them were the Black Loyalists. Their history, their struggle is an example to follow, for now they still live in Nova Scotia, fight for their rights, give Canada talented people and become its pride. And finally we may say that they have found what they were looking for- a land where everybody is equal and no one will ever call you “a black servant”, or a “Negro slave”. They live in a place where their “new home” is, place where they can freely realize themselves as unique personalities.

1 From: Pachai & Santosh “The Nova Scotia Black Community and Diaspora: Models of Upward Mobility” Role Model Report\1994


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