Why Use This Guide?
This guide seeks to provide a sample of the wide variety of materials in The Loyalist Collection relating to the study of people of African descent in the British Atlantic World, with an overview of what the materials contain and how to search them. Though the study of loyalists is the primary focus of the collection, the selected materials transcend beyond the American Revolution to provide a range of material for the study of Black history from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth century. The geographic coverage spans the North American eastern seaboard, as well as the West Indies or Caribbean and across the Atlantic Ocean to Sierra Leone, West Africa. These sources provide varying perspectives such as: government officials including those "on the ground" responsible for resettlement; abolitionists and others concerned for their care; military officers overseeing a Black regiment during the American Revolution; and owners or employers advertising for runaways. Though not the bulk of the documents, Black voices are also heard, for example, as petitioners to government for assistance and as part of commissions inquiring into their situations.
Types of Materials: Primary and Secondary
Primary materials are sources usually created at the time of an event and involve first-hand accounts of historical incidents without secondary analysis or interpretation. Examples include correspondence or letters, loyalists' claims for compensation to the British government for lost property, township records, or list of Black loyalists, to name a few. Secondary sources offer an analysis, description, or interpretation of a primary resource; and often provide the historical context. For example, if a settler's petition or request to the government was the primary resource, the secondary resource could be an article explaining the significance and context of the petition; or if government letters written during the American Revolution were the primary resource, the secondary resource could be a book or encyclopedia article about the American Revolution. When used together, both forms of sources help us to better understand the complex elements pertaining to the story of the enslaved, endentured, displaced, and free people of African descent during this time period.
Detail from runaway slave advertisement, Halifax Gazette, July 5, 1791. (UNB Libraries)
The following reference sources act as starting points for researchers studying people of African descent in the British Atlantic World, providing a comprehensive overview. Reference sources, such as subject-specific encyclopedias, dictionaries, and bibliographies, provide an overview of a topic and its related issues and help to define unfamiliar terms, while also containing key secondary sources. You may also search the libraries' reference database.
Selected Reference Books
*Note: Books are organised by author.
Author: Appiah, Anthony, and Henry Louis Gates
Abstract: This guide to the history and current state of Africa and African-American heritage provides brief histories of the black experience, spanning into the present day. Of particular interest are entries on the American Revolution, Canada, Manumission (the granting of freedom) Societies, and Maroonage in the Americas (regarding the Jamaican Maroons). Entries are arranged alphabetically.
Call Number: HIL- REF DT14 .A37435 1999
Author: Colin A Palmer; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Abstract: This multi-volume set identifies and addresses broad themes critical to understanding the texture of the cultures, achievements, and challenges of the 150 million people of African descent who live in North America, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Examples of themes include Canada; diasporic cultures in the Americas, Emancipation - U.S. and Caribbean, food and cuisine, law and liberty, maroon wars and arts, runaway slaves in Canada and U.S., slave narratives, religions, trade, and slavery.
Call Number: HIL-REF E185 .E54 2006
Author: Finkelman, Paul
Abstract: In nearly 700 entries this encyclopedia documents a wide range of African-American experiences. It encompasses persons and events from the arrival of the first ship with enslaved people to the death of Frederick Douglass (an African-American social reformer) in 1895. There are substantial entries on the American Revolution, Manumission, the Maroons, and Slavery.
Call Number: EBOOK
Author: Junne, George H.
Abstract: This book provides bibliographic sources for a wide variety of topics and time periods. These sources help to provide a comprehensive look at the black experience in Canada from the first people enslaved by the French to the present day. A subject index is located at the back of the book. Engries of interest include Abolition, the American Revolution, Free Blacks, Jamaica, Loyalists, Maroons, and the War of 1812.
Call Number: HIL-STACKS FC 106 .B6 J86 2003
Author: Sutherland, Jonathan
Abstract: This encyclopedia explores the role of African Americans in wars involving the United States. Information is provided on the black experience and involvement in the American Revolution and the War of 1812.
Call Number: EBOOK
These primary sources provide a sample of materials in The Loyalist Collection relating to the study of people of African descent in the British Atlantic World. A range of subject matter, time periods, and geographic areas are covered in the sources. Click on the title links for further information pertaining to a specific collection; within the catalogue record, particularly check the Finding Aid sections within for any indexes, etc. that may be available to assist research.
**Material has been organised alphabetically by call number within each category.
West Indies/Caribbean ***New
Dorchester, Guy Carleton. British Headquarter Papers: 1747-1783
Call Number: HIL-MICL LMR .D6G8B7
Keywords: slavery, Black loyalists, refugees, ownership issues, military, labour, American Revolution post-settlement, diplomacy, New York, New York-coroner's inquisitions, East Florida, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Jamaica, Nova Scotia
Commonly known as the Carleton Papers, these are the records accumulated at the British Army Headquarters for North America, 1775 to 1783, containing the official correspondence of the commanders-in-chief during the period of the American Revolution. They document the conduct of the war, the civil administration, and the lives, not only of the British Military, but of civilians and soldiers. Related to people of African descent, of significance is correspondence relating to American claims to the British for their "slaves," and pages of the Inspection Roll of Negroes, also called the Book of Negroes (document number 10427), which is a list of Black loyalists in New York City, 1783, intending to leave with the British at the end of the American Revolution. (This register was the result of General George Washington’s demand for the return of enslaved people who had left their owners to join the British, as per the peace treaty. Carleton argued they could not remove the freedom they had given to the Black loyalists; however, he agreed to create this register.) There is extensive information about them such as their names, sex, health, distinguishing marks, status (free or slave), origins, names of their white associates, and the ships used to carry them. Most went to present-day Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but also to Quebec, England, Germany, and Jamaica. Relevant and preceding the Book of Negroes are Article 7 of the Peace Treaty, and Minutes of the Board of Commissioners for superintending embarkations etc. held between May and July 1783 pertaining to disputes as to whether specific black people could sail away with the British.
Finding Aids: Black Experience digital finding aid created using the subject index from the 4-volume set accompanying this collection . Online searchable database of selected people, including loyalists and associated persons, is available online. Book of Negroes is available online.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LMR .G7A7P7M8
Keywords: military - personnel and movements, regiments, loyalists, American Revolution and post-settlement
Muster rolls were, in a military sense, a register or list of all the men in a company, troop, or regiment, accountable and present on the day of gathering for review, by which they were paid. These muster rolls and related records provide information concerning the individuals who enrolled in various American loyalist corps or Provincial Corps during the American Revolution. Of particular interest are the records relating to one of only a few Black military units during the American Revolution, the Black Pioneers, which was a unit primarily used for construction and military support. These relevant documents include: an undated muster roll, list of seconded officers, and a 1780 muster roll. Data from muster rolls provide information pertaining to the movement of the corps and to its soldiers - health, location, promotions, and early relationships of resettled individuals.
Finding Aid: A document listing is available digitally.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LMR .G7C6A4C6M6
Keywords: official correspondence, American Revolution, military, "slaves," south, diplomacy, loyalists
These volumes relate to the period which witnessed American independence from Great Britain, and include letters and enclosures from the commanders-in-chief in North America to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in England. This material contains documents relevant to the black experience, particularly in the latter years of the American Revolution when the war moved southward, and, at the end of the war, when many wished to leave with the British after defeat. Controversies were created by the following events: 1. the Proclamation (1775) of Lord Dunmore promising freedom to enslaved people who would fight for the British; 2. the plight of refugee blacks after the British defeat at Yorktown (1781); and 3. the Americans' demand that none of their property shall leave with the British at the end of the war. These are evident in the paperwork.
Note: These are only a portion of the volumes held in The Loyalist Collection; see catalogue for more records of Colonial Office 5 (CO 5) material.
Finding Aid: Listing of a selection of documents on this subject found in CO 5 is available digitally.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LPR .A4P8C6V5
Keywords: "slaves" – laws and regulations, crime and justice, importation and transportation, security, marriage, apprehension; free Black persons; Mulattoes; Virginia; government
Virginia became a Crown colony in 1624. Tobacco became a profitable export, and by 1750 Virginia had become dependent on slavery with slave holders forming the ruling class. The American Revolution created instability in this dynamic, which climaxed with Governor Dunmore's Proclamation (Nov. 7, 1775), also known as the Emancipation Proclamation, providing freedom to people enslaved by American patriots if they fought for Britain. Records found herein, such as the Journals from both branches of government covering 1619-1791, show laws that became more and more restrictive. They reveal aspects of Black life in Virginia, touching on property issues, crime, British influence, public works, and insurrections. The terms "negroes" and "slaves" are both used in the accompanying indexes.
Finding aid: References pulled from the indexes in the government journals; organised by index subject terms with very brief descriptions of each document is available digitally. Collection also available electronically.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LPR .G7A9C5L6; FC LPR .G7A9C5L7
Keywords: loyalists, "slaves," Black loyalists, servants, American Revolution and post settlement, law and justice, family and women, property
These two series of papers relate to claims for compensation submitted by persons who had suffered losses of property and income during the American Revolution because of their loyalty to the British crown. From 1776, the British Treasury granted relief in the form of allowances to impoverished Loyalists who had sought refuge in Great Britain. In 1783, the Treasury assigned its duties to the Loyalist Claims Commission who received claims of losses of property and incomes, as well as requests by impoverished loyalists for relief in the form of an allowance. This resource gives historians insight into people's lives during and directly after the war as refugees, and includes the paperwork as evidence to support their claims; such as: lists and descriptions of property: homes, livestock, household goods, "slaves" or servants; also included may be information pertaining to their family, their places of residence, their experience in America as a loyalist - maybe as a soldier, or spy, runaway "slave," free Black, woman, or as the victim of hostilities. Pertaining to the Black experience, for the most part these are found in the records of white loyalists as lost property claims. Black loyalists themselves making their own claims and telling some of their stories are also included.
Finding Aid: Books that summarise each person's claim are available; they include nominal indexes, and one book has the subject term "negro" and a list of persons with one name only at the end of the index.
Call Number: MICGDL - E443 .B525 1989
Keywords: "slaves", Pennsylvania, newspapers
Philadelphia, during the colonial period, was the main port in the province for the import of enslaved people and continued throughout this period to have the highest numbers. Under an Act for the Better Regulation of Negroes.....1725, numerous provisions were passed that were restrictive to this population. In 1767, the colony banned the importation of enslaved people; and in 1780, passed the first state abolition act in the United States. These are newspaper advertisement selections for runaway slaves from the newspaper called the Pennsylvania Gazette. These notices, mostly written by slave owners offering rewards for the apprehension and return of their property, chronicle the stories of hundreds of those enslaved who attempted to escape their bondage. Designed to identify as precisely as possible the people who had escaped, the notices contain considerable information. These provide information on things such as appearance, skills, birthplace, name of slave owners and assessments of their property. Constables and jailers also published newspaper announcements designating where and when suspected fugitives had been apprehended and identifying whom, if anyone, the imprisoned had specified as their owner. Thus a number of them can be traced from their escape to their capture. Note: The Library has many colonial newspapers to locate more of the same, in digital and microform formats.
Finding Aid: Indexes included - nominal and subject. Examples of terms include - advertisements by jailers, African markings, escape objectives (Carolinas, England, family, blacks, Indians, military, backcountry, swamps, vessel or the West Indies), escaped previously, escaped with others (blacks, family, whites), irons on, etc.
Call Number: HIL-MICGDL J87 .S6 1776
Keywords: South Carolina, American Revolution, "slaves" - public service, insurrection fears, chattels
The Provincial Congress, not sanctioned by Britain, was an elected body of individuals who unofficially governed the colony. It was formed at a time of increased tension between Britain and its American colony as the American Revolution proceeded. In 1776, the second Provincial Congress met as the First General Assembly of the State of South Carolina. This book contains transcriptions of the Journals of the Provincial Congress of South Carolina, Jan 11, 1775 - March 28, 1776. These were the minutes of these meetings and include orders and resolutions on different matters, petitions from individuals, and reports. South Carolina was a slave society with large scale agriculture, and the fear of "slave'" insurrections or escapes to British lines for safety became a cause for concern. This was one of the matters documented within. Pertaining to black persons, the following subtopics are covered: runaways, import duties on, importation of, corn, military and other public services.
Finding Aid: Subject index available; see the terms "negroes" and "slaves."
Call Number: HIL-MICGDL J87 .S6 1780
Keywords: South Carolina; "slaves" - public service, chattels; American Revolution
In South Carolina, the House of Representatives, which was the elected lower house, replaced the General Assembly under the constitution of 1778. This book contains transcriptions of the Journals from the General Assembly (March 26, 1776 - Oct 20, 1776), and House of Representatives of South Carolina (Aug 31, 1779-Feb 12, 1780) during the early years of the American Revolution. These represent the meetings of these groups and provides a unique opportunity to look at localized laws, messages from the governor, correspondence, and petitions in South Carolina between 1776 and 1780. The Journal ending coincides with the start of the British occupation of Charleston. Documents pertaining to public service of enslaved persons include the following subtopics - military, vessels, compensation to owners for injuries on the job and exemptions for owners to do military service; regulations concerning public auctions; concerns about insurrections; military involvement; compensation for loss of property taken by the British (includes rates for salvage of recaptured property); and duties and taxes.
Finding Aid: Subject index available, see the term "slaves."
Call Number HIL-MICL FC LFR .B7E3L4
Keywords: free Black persons, American Revolution post-settlement, Nova Scotia - Digby
Reverend Edward Brudenell was an Anglican clergyman, and his letter book relates to the period he was acting as an agent on behalf of the British government to lay out and assign lands in Digby, Nova Scotia. Many of the free loyal Black persons who came to this area after the American Revolution were former members of the military unit called the Black Pioneers, including Thomas Peters, who was placed in charge of the Black settlers at Annapolis County. Included in this collection is a list of Black persons granted one acre lots in Brinley Town, (also known as Brindley Town), after the American Revolution (pages 227-230). Brinley Town was located to the south of Digby. These people placed numerous petitions with the House of Assembly for lots of lands, as there were long delays in receiving the lands promised them for being loyal to the British. This list is a result of these petitions. The list contains names, lot numbers, and brief remarks. Also includes a sketch of the Digby area indicating the location of this Black settlement, and a return or list of settlers which includes the number of free Blacks (# 253-263).
For more on Black settlers in the Digby area and their struggles for land, see documents in Great Britain: Colonial Office, Nova Scotia (CO 217) in The Loyalist Collection (call no. MIC-Loyalist FC LPR .G7C6N6C6), which contain correspondence between the Governor of Nova Scotia and England. Of particular note are the documents attached to the petitions and correspondence by these free Black persons (1790-92) as they try to have someone listen and act on their issues (for example see March 19, 1792).
Finding aid: List of documents is available.
Call Number: HIl-MICL FC LFR .C5J6P3
Keywords: Black loyalists, Thomas Peters, Cato Perkins, slavery and abolitionist movement, American Revolution post-settlement, Nova Scotia, Sierra Leone - West Africa, health
Between 1791 and 1792 John Clarkson organized the historic migration of 1190 Black loyalists from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to Sierra Leone. Clarkson worked with Thomas Peters, a prominent black loyalist, to organize this movement. This collection contains documents which gives insight into the struggles of life in Nova Scotia for these newest arrivals, post-American Revolution, and the dissatisfactions which made the decision to go to Sierra Leone so attractive. (Most never received the lands or provisions promised and were forced to earn meagre wages as farm hands or domestics.) Some documents of interest include: reports of the Sierra Leone Company, 1791-92 (vol. 1); John Clarkson's notebook in Halifax, 1791 (vol. 2); petitions to the Sierra Leone Company discussing hardships of life in Sierra Leone, 1783-1820 (vol. 3); a register of medical cases among the Black loyalists in Sierra Leone, 1791-92 (vol. 4); and Thomas Clarkson's papers regarding the abolition of slavery, 1787-1853 (vol. 5). To illustrate their situation in Nova Scotia, post settlement after the American Revolution, are these examples of documents from vol. 1: from Clarkson, an advertisement at Shelburne seeking prospective emigrants for Sierra Leone, 1791; petition from Black persons for fresh beef; a letter from Birch Town (black settlement outside Shelburne) residents regarding emigration and their concerns regarding, 1791 (document 23); letters pertaining to the unhappy state of Black persons in Nova Scotia; and letters from Thomas Peters, a leading Black loyalist, 1791 (documents 13, 24).
Finding Aid: Transcription of the register of medical cases... in vol. 4 is available digitally. Brief information for each document, typically correspondents and dates, is available online from the British Library.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LFR .L9M5P3
Keywords: Nova Scotia - Digby, slavery, law and justice, post American Revolution
The Papers pertain mainly to the Digby, Nova Scotia area beginning after the American Revolution (1775-1783) and into the first half of the nineteenth century. Prominent among the contents are the correspondence of the Wiswall family; personal and official records of Peleg Wiswall; and records of the courts, customs house and naval office. One document in particular relating to Black inhabitants is of interest; due to the legal ambiguity of slavery in Nova Scotia during this time, problems arose. The issue is illustrated in the argument between Colonel James Delancey (a Loyalist) and a well-to-do merchant, Mr. Worden, in Annapolis. Delancey's slave, Jack, had run away without leave and found employment with Worden. Under advice from his lawyer, Worden refused to return Jack as he considered him a free man. While the papers cover a broad range of topics, the published work Opinions of several gentlemen of the law, on the subject of Negro servitude in Nova Scotia (1802), is particularly valuable to researchers of Black history. This pamphlet attempts to answer questions regarding the legality of Trover (a term which defined a slave as property) in one single case in Annapolis, Nova Scotia.
Finding Aid: A table of contents is available, listing the main categories of documents. Opinions of several gentlemen....is available electronically.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LMR .C4W3M8
Keywords: free Black persons, servants, military, regiments, American Revolution and post-settlement, Nova Scotia - Guysborough and Annapolis Counties
Ward Chipman was a lawyer from Massachusetts who supported the Loyalist cause, acting as a muster master for the British during and at the end of the war. These records refer mostly to Loyalists who eventually settled in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island, mostly relating to loyalist provincial military units, but also including references to wives and children of Loyalists, some soldiers of British regiments, and black members of Loyalist regiments. Of particular interest in this collection, are the many documents pertaining to the Black Pioneers, a Black loyalist military unit primarily used for construction and support during the American Revolution. These include: 1784 list of Annapolis County "Negroes" settled at Digby, Annapolis and Granville who drew government rations and provisions, which includes the Pioneers (vol. 24, p 69-73); military muster rolls for 1777 and 1783 (vol. 25, p 86-127); 1782-83 Abstracts of Pay, which show the salary of the regiment's members (vol. 30 p 20-36); and 1781-82 Abstracts of the State of the Black Pioneers (vol. 30 p 166). Also available is a 1784 list of "Chedabucto Negroes," which is located in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia (vol 24 p 275-279). A loyalist ship arrived in Chedabucto Bay June 21, 1784, creating one of Nova Scotia's first Black settlements.
Finding aid: List of document titles and corresponding dates available; collection also available electronically.
Call Number: HIL-MICL LMR .D6G8B7
Keywords: slavery, Black loyalists, American Revolution post-settlement, diplomacy
Commonly known as the Carleton Papers, these are the records accumulated at the British Army Headquarters for North America, 1775 to 1783, containing the official correspondence of the commanders-in-chief during the period of the American Revolution. Related to people of African descent, of significance are American claims to the British for their "slaves," and pages of the Inspection Roll of Negroes, also called the Book of Negroes (document number 10427), which is a list of Black loyalists in New York City, 1783, intending to go to Nova Scotia with the British at the end of the American Revolution. (This register was the result of General George Washington’s demand for the return of enslaved people who had left their owners to join the British, as per the peace treaty. Carleton argued they could not remove the freedom they had given to the Black loyalists; however, he agreed to create this register.) The document contains a great deal of data about each person, for example the location removing to, and name of previous owner. The transport vessels carrying these people not only went to Nova Scotia (including present-day New Brunswick), but also to Quebec, England, Germany, and Jamaica.
Finding Aid: Using the index in the printed 4-volume set accompanying this collection, summaries to selected documents is available digitally. Also the Book of Negroes is available electronically.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LPR .G7A9C5L6 & FC LPR .G7A9C5L7
Keywords: loyalists, "slaves," Black loyalists, servants, American Revolution and post settlement, law and justice, family and women, property
These two series of papers relate to claims for compensation submitted by persons who had suffered losses of property and income during the American Revolution because of their loyalty to the British crown. From 1776, the British Treasury granted relief in the form of allowances to impoverished Loyalists who had sought refuge in Great Britain. In 1783, the Treasury assigned its duties to the Loyalist Claims Commission who received claims of losses of property and incomes, as well as requests by impoverished loyalists for relief in the form of an allowance. This resource gives the historian insight into people's lives during and directly after the war as refugees, and includes the paperwork as evidence to support their claims; such as: lists and descriptions of property: homes, livestock, household goods, "slaves" or servants; also included may be information pertaining to their family, their places of residence, their experience in America as a loyalist - maybe as a soldier, or spy, runaway "slave," free Black, woman, or as the victim of hostilities. Pertaining to the Black experience, most are found in the records of white loyalists as lost property claims.
Finding Aids: Books published with indexes provide access so that those few with names are noted. Black loyalists themselves making their own claims and telling some of their stories are also included.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LSC .N4M8A7L6 I
Keywords: New Brunswick - Saint John, slave - manumission, free Black persons, American Revolution post-settlement, tavern
These documents, compiled by the New Brunswick Museum, provide an array of documents on the early years of New Brunswick. Relevant to the study of the Black inhabitants are the Thomson Family Papers. Peter Thomson was an enslaved person in Saint John, New Brunswick. This small collection of papers, ranging from 1794 to 1820, contains a manumission granting freedom by Charles McPherson (loyalist merchant) with the stipulation of payments, tavern licence in the City of Saint John, and writ concerning debt to John Hideby after the death of both men (Charles McPherson and Phillis Thomson mentioned). This is interesting as the City of Saint John in its charter of 1785 denied members of the Black community, except servants, to live, trade or sell goods there. Note: See also Saint John newspapers for more.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LPR .N6P8M7
Keywords: Jamaica, Nova Scotia - Preston, slavery, free Black persons, resettlement, Maroons, Sierra Leone
The Maroons, black persons in Jamaica who fought against slavery for over a century, had just lost a rebellion against the British. They were removed in 1796 from Jamaica to Nova Scotia after their failed rebellion. Governor Wentworth was given financial support from Jamaica and Britain to assist the settlement of the Maroons (543 men, women and children) in Preston and other communities outside Halifax. Discontentment among them arose and Gov. Wentworth accepted their request to go to Sierra Leone, which they did in 1800. Material contains accounts and receipts for articles supplied and services rendered to the Maroons during their last year in Nova Scotia; as well as related to the dispensation of their property left behind. These records include detailed lists of government issued food, clothing and other necessities with the amount charged for each item. These documents provide evidence of the support given to the Maroons at the end of their stay in Nova Scotia.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LPR .N6P8N4
Keywords: Nova Scotia settlement - post-American Revolution, post-War of 1812, post-Jamaican revolt; Black loyalists; "slaves"; Maroons; migration; Sierra Leone resettlement; health; Trinidad resettlement; families
There were waves of Black migration to Nova Scotia during this time period. After the American Revolution many Black loyalists came with the promise of freedom and free land, as well as "slaves" attached to loyalists. The Jamaican Maroons came in 1796, who were runaway "slaves" fighting for their freedom and deported to Nova Scotia, and after the War of 1812, Black refugees migrated from the United States. These Papers contain a variety of documents, such as, lists of settlers and those enslaved, financial papers dealing with provisioning and services to Black inhabitants, papers relative to relocations from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone (1791-2, 1800) and Trinidad (1821), and correspondence of the surveyors and other officials who had responsibilities towards their care. Here are some specific examples from vol. 419 (1790-1834): Declaration of the Sierra Leone Company of their readiness to receive into their colony certain "free blacks," 1791 (#1); Plans and descriptions of lands laid out for the Black settlers at Preston, Hammond Plains etc. (#20- 40); Draft of Mr. Morris' proposals for settling "people of colour" (#72); Dr. Samuel Head's Report respecting Black families settled at Preston, 1816 (#47); List of "slaves" belonging to British subjects captured on board British vessels during the late war brought into Charlestown as prisoners, 1815 (#57); and account sales of Maroon property in cattle, farming utensils, etc., 1804 (#121-131). Taken altogether these Papers provide a wealth of information on the Black experience in Nova Scotia.
Finding Aid: Most of this collection is available online with limited search function.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LPR .N6T6S5L6
Keywords: Nova Scotia - Shelburne, Birchtown, Port Mouton; London; American Revolution post-settlement; refugees; "slaves"; servants; families
The Shelburne records are significant to the study of Black history, as the county was home to the largest free Black settlement in Canada, Birchtown, as a consequence of the influx of refugees after the American Revolution. Shelburne Township was initially referred to as Port Roseway. These records document the early years of the people and places and contain significant documents pertaining to its Black citizens. A particular example is the Muster Book of the Free Black Settlement at Birchtown, 1784. To illustrate the kinds of content in this document, the muster shows Benjamin and his wife Binah Trots listed together, and indicates Benjamin lived with Mr. Munn for a year and received provisions. In the remarks for Binah, who had lived with Mr. Gough, it indicates her husband was carried to Jamaica and sold by a Mr. Miller who lived in the same household. Also included is a petition from the overseers of the poor to the magistrates of Shelburne for the relief of "Negroes," 1789; and copies of wills in the Court of General Sessions 1784-87 which depict those enslaved as property to be bequeathed, as in Thomas Robinson's will, 10 August 1787.
Finding Aids: Searchable database and images available for the Muster Book.
Sierra Leone (West Africa)
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LFR .C5J6P3
Keywords: Black loyalists, Thomas Peters, Cato Perkins, slavery and abolitionist movement, American Revolution post-settlement, Nova Scotia, Sierra Leone - West Africa, health
Between 1791 and 1792, Clarkson, an abolitionist, organized the migration of 1190 Black loyalists from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to Sierra Leone. Clarkson worked with Thomas Peters, a prominent Black loyalist, to organize this movement. This collection contains documents which give insight into the struggles of life in Nova Scotia post-American Revolution, and the dissatisfactions which made the decision to go to Sierra Leone so attractive. (Most never received the lands or provisions promised and were forced to earn meagre wages as farm hands or domestics.) Some documents of interest include: reports of the Sierra Leone Company, 1791-92 (vol. 1); John Clarkson's notebook in Halifax, 1791 (vol. 2); petitions to the Sierra Leone Company discussing hardships of life in Sierra Leone, 1783-1820 (vol. 3); a register of medical cases among the Black loyalists in Sierra Leone, 1791-92 (vol. 4); and Thomas Clarkson's papers regarding the abolition of slavery, 1787-1853 (vol. 5). To illustrate their situation in Nova Scotia, post settlement after the American Revolution, are these examples of documents from vol. 1: from Clarkson, an advertisement at Shelburne, seeking prospective emigrants for Sierra Leone, 1791; petition from Blacks for fresh beef; a letter from Birch Town (Black settlement outside Shelburne) residents regarding emigration concerns, 1791 (document 23); letters pertaining to the unhappy state of the Blacks in Nova Scotia; and letters from Thomas Peters, a leading Black loyalist, 1791 (documents 13, 24).
Finding Aid: Transcription of the register of medical cases... is available digitally. Brief information for each document, typically correspondents and dates, is available online.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LPR .N6P8N4
Keywords: Nova Scotia, slavery, land settlement; Sierra Leone, health, Maroons, Trinidad, migration, families
There were waves of Black migration to Nova Scotia during this time period. After the American Revolution many Black loyalists came with the promise of freedom and free land, as well as slaves attached to loyalists. The Jamaican Maroons came in 1796, who were runaway "slaves" fighting for their freedom and deported to Nova Scotia, and after the War of 1812, many Black refugees migrated from the United States. These Papers contain a variety of documents, such as, lists of settlers and "slaves," financial papers dealing with provisioning and services to Blacks, papers relative to relocations from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone (1791-2, 1800) and Trinidad (1821), and correspondence of the surveyors and others who had responsibilities towards the care of the Blacks. Here are some specific examples from vol. 419 (1790-1834): Declaration of the Sierra Leone Company of their readiness to receive into their colony certain free Blacks, 1791 (#1); Plans and descriptions of lands laid out for the Blacks at Preston, Hammond Plains etc. (#20- 40); Draft of Mr. Morris' proposals for settling people of colour (#72); Dr. Samuel Head's Report respecting Black families settled at Preston, 1816 (#47); List of "slaves" belonging to British subjects captured on board British vessels during the late war brought into Charlestown as prisoners, 1815 (#57); and account sales of Maroon property in cattle, farming utensils, etc. 1804 (#121-131). Taken altogether these Papers provide a wealth of information on the black experience in Nova Scotia.
Finding Aid: Most of this collection is available electronically with limited search function.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LFR .V3W5L4
William Vassal (1715-1800) was born in Jamaica, and moved with his family eventually to Boston, Massachusetts. He inherited his father's Jamaican estates, which produced sugar and rum. He lived in Boston and Bristol, Rhode Island before moving to England due to the American Revolution. There are two letter books and much of the content revolves around his sugar plantations in Jamaica and communications with his overseers at Jamaica and to Beeston Long of a London firm involved in the Jamaican trade.
Finding Aids: A detailed summary of the letters from 1790 to 3 April 1792 is available digitally.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LPR .G7C6W4C6
Keywords: "free people of colour," social and legal justice and injustice, slave trade, liberated Africans, apprentices (situations, backgrounds, physical characteristics, punishments), "slaves" (Nevis), free settlement (Tortola)
Contains original correspondence found in the files of the British secretaries of state responsible for the colonies, relating generally to the British colonies in the West Indies. A relevant volume is Volume 76, Commissioners of Legal Enquiry in the West Indies, 1822-1828, Free People of Colour: Disabilities and Grievances. In these memorials by free black persons from different islands are outlined the legal distinctions and disabilities under which "free coloured inhabitants" laboured for which they request redress, and ultimately equality under the law as British subjects. Most memorials provide situational and historical context, the grounds for redress in specified laws or regulations; as well as, the laws deemed prejudicial and oppressive, and their arbitrary and unequal distribution. The second is Volume 83, Commissioners of Enquiry into the state of the 'captured negroes' in the West Indies, 1823-1824, which includes reports, examinations, and correspondence related to enquiries into the state and condition of Africans liberated from slavery under acts for abolishing the slave trade.
Finding Aids: Electronic document listings are available with detailed summaries of content for both volumes.
Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LPR .J3A8J6
Keywords: legislation, Maroons, civil privileges, manumissions, "slaves", "rebellious slaves," runaways; Mulattoes, "negro huts," land boundaries, apprentices, estate devisees, military
During the period of these records, Jamaica was Britain's largest and wealthiest West Indian island built on sugar dependent on enslaved West Africans for labour. The Journals contain printed or published editions of the minutes of the Jamaica House of Assembly from its first meeting on January 20, 1664 to December 22, 1826. The types of documents found in the minutes include, instructions, bills, accounts, reports, messages, petitions, acts, complaints or grievances, letters, and returns. The minutes dealt with all aspects of Jamaican life, including matters relative to its black members - free, enslaved, or otherwise.
Finding Aids: Indexes are available electronically, and very detailed content for 1782 Feb. 26-June 12, and 1795 Nov. 27-Dec.18.
Searches by keyword in the Library's catalogue, WorldCat, for books, journals, articles, etc., or in The Loyalist Collection catalogue for primary sources, can include a particular person, such as abolitionist John Clarkson, a location such as South Carolina, or a topic such as the War of 1812. Keep in mind you may need to use contemporary geographic names as well as the current names in order to find the place of interest.
Remember that you are searching the summaries of each of the titles typically, often with no subject search fields as in WorldCat; consequently, you are advised to check the Finding Aid fields within a record for any detailed content.
Suggested search terms include:
- black history
- black loyalists
- slave or slaves
- Black Pioneers
- communities such as in Nova Scotia- Digby, Birchtown or Birch Town, Preston, Hammonds Plains
- Sierra Leone
- maroon or maroons
- West Indies
Finding Loyalist Collection in the library: The Collection is in the basement of the Harriet Irving Library and shelved into 5 sections: Church (LCR), Family (LFR), Military (LMR), Public (government) (LPR), and Special Collections (LSC). See floor plan.
Reading call numbers: MIC-Loyalist (or MICL) FC LFR .B7E3L4 is located in The Loyalist Collection on microfilm, in the Family Records section (LFR). “.B7E3L4” represents the call number within that section.
The Libraries' catalogue, WorldCat, includes the holdings for all the UNB libraries, including our campus at Saint John; and can also be searched for holdings beyond our collections, and for types of material that includes journal articles and electronic books (ebooks).
Suggested searches include:
- African Americans - History - 18th century
- Blacks - Nova Scotia - History
- Blacks - Caribbean Area - History - 18th century
- Sierra Leone - History - to 1896
- Slavery - United States - History - 19th century
- United States - History - Revolution, 1775-1783 - African Americans
How to search WorldCat: See a brief video on how to search UNB WorldCat to find books.
Further Reading & Sources
Further Reading: Books and Databases
The following books seek to provide researchers with more information on topics found in The Loyalist Collection relating to the study of people of African descent in the British Atlantic World. For more options, researchers may want to perform a title, subject or keyword search in the Library's catalogue, WorldCat, to find books, journals, articles, etc.
Hint: Remember to utilise the footnotes and bibliographies within your secondary sources, books for example, to point you in the direction of key sources on your topic.
Inter-library Loan: Books and other materials not available at UNB may be available for loan from another institution through our Document Delivery service. To search for these materials, use UNB's Library catalogue, WorldCat, and select "Libraries Worldwide". Once you have found a title not locally held, select the "Request Item" link.
Browse the book shelves for relatable material, either in the Library's main collection (HIL-Stacks) or in The Loyalist Collection (HIL-MICGDL):
- DT - World History - Africa
- E184 - 185.98 - America, Colonial History - Elements in the population - African Americans
- E351.5 - 364.9 - Unites States - War of 1812
- F206-20 - United States - Local History - The South
- F1861 - 96 - West Indies - Jamaica
- FC104 - 141 - Canada - Elements in the population
- FC442 - 449 - Canada - War of 1812
- FC2301 - 2350 - Canada - Nova Scotia
- HT851-1445 - Communities - Classes - Slavery
Where are they? To interpret the locations within the Library, click on Locations Guide underneath the search box for a floor plan.
Note: Books are arranged alphabetically by author.
Author: Berlin, Ira
Abstract: This volume sketches the evolution of slavery and black society from the first arrivals in the early 1600s through the American Revolution. This work illustrates the complex nature of American slavery, the falsity of many of our stereotypes, and the unique world wrought by the slaves themselves
Author: Egerton, Douglas R
Abstract: This monograph explores the changing life of blacks in the Atlantic World due to the American Revolution. It includes information on black revolutionary life, slavery, military involvement, emancipation, the political climate of the Southern States, free blacks, and black Loyalist migrations.
Author: Gilbert, Alan
Abstract: This monograph looks at black military involvement in the American Revolution in relation to emancipation movements occurring both during and after the war. Topics of interest include Lord Dunmore and the Southern United States, emancipation, Patriot (American) and British use of blacks in the military, and postwar migrations. The book has a substantial bibliography and subject index.
Author: Grant, John N.
Abstract: This book provides the history of the Jamaican Maroons. It touches on social, political, and economic aspects of their lives spanning from their rebellion in Jamaica to their migration to Sierra Leone c. 1800.
Author: Landers, Jane
Abstract: This monograph explores the involvement of people of colour in various revolutions and rebellions occurring in the Southern Colonies and the British West Indies during the 18th century. Topics of interest include the American Revolution in the South as well as rebellions/revolutions in Saint Domingue, Jamaica (Maroons), Havana, and Cuba. The book also includes three appendixes which include a chronology, a list of Prince’s Black Company, and a list of black prisoners.
Author: Sanneh, Lamin O.
Abstract: This monograph explores the development of blacks in the British Atlantic World following the repatriation movements to Sierra Leone and Liberia in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The book focuses on the influence of Black Loyalists, the lives of blacks in London, the early abolition movement, and plantation life as precursors to mass migrations to West Africa.
Author: Schama, Simon
Abstract: This book chronicles the struggle for freedom that blacks underwent during the American Revolution. It discusses the movement of slaves from Plantations to British military lines, and later to Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone.
Author: Whitfield, Harvey Amani
Abstract: This book provides a brief history of slavery in both Atlantic Canada and the United States. This is followed by information on the daily lives of blacks in British North America, focusing on the development of post War of 1812 communities in Nova Scotia.
Databases - primary sources
(Owned by UNB Libraries.)
Empire Online is an interactive collection of primary source documents, sourced from leading archives around the world. Material in the collection spans five centuries, charting the story of the rise and fall of empires.
The following list of external resources was compiled to provide relevant electronic research tools to compliment the other materials referenced within this guide.
African Nova Scotians by the Nova Scotia Archives contains two sites of interest: 1. African Nova Scotian Diaspora contains digitised and searchable records relating to early immigration and emigration, reflecting the experiences of Black Refugees who came at the end of the War of 1812; and 2. African Nova Scotians includes a variety of types of documents with a searchable database of those who came between the years 1783 to 1816.
The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas provides images related to the American slave trade and slave societies, and includes a searchable database as well as eighteen browsable themes. Each of the images contains an accompanying write up.
“Black Loyalist” focuses on historical data about the African American loyalist refugees recorded in the Book of Negroes.
The Black Loyalists Digital Collections explores the Black Loyalist experience in Canada.
Black Loyalist Heritage Society (Birchtown, Nova Scotia)
Digital Library on American Slavery contains three sites of interest: 1. Race and Slavery Petitions Project contains information pertaining to slaves, slaveholders and free blacks extracted from different state legislative petitions and county court petitions, as well as from of other types of documents; 2. North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements provides online access to all known runaway slave advertisements published in North Carolina newspapers from 1751 to 1840, providing a "glimpse into the social, economic, and cultural world of the American slave system and the specific experience within North Carolina"; and 3. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database which includes information on over 35,000 slave voyages between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The Geography of Slavery in Virginia contains a comprehensive digital collection of advertisements for runaway and captured slaves and servants from newspapers in Virginia and Maryland, covering the years from 1736 through 1803. Access is available through a seachable database as well as by browsing the ads by date of publication or by place names mentioned.
Also contains browsable listings of transcribed selected documents under these categories: 1. Official Records - Virginia Laws, 1660-1789; County Records from Accomack, Augusta, Essex and Richmond counties, 1751-1785; and the legal case pertaining to the runaway Simon Howell, 1770; 2. Newspaper Materials from the Maryland Gazette and Virginia Gazette providing articles about slaves and slaveholders, 1750-1773; and 3. Slaveholder's Records - Carter Family Correspondence, 1738-9, 1763-91; and Charles Yates Letterbook, 1773-1780.
Legacies of British Slave-ownership contains a database searchable by slave-owner or an individual related professionally or personally to a slave-owner. It can be used as an index to slave compensation returns in Treasury 71 (T71).
Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities in Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Museum
Sierra Leone Collection, University of Illinois at Chicago. The collection consists of primary documents related to the British administration of Sierra Leone, including public and private papers of British officials in the colony of Sierra Leone, 1792-1825.
More Information More Information
Atlantic Provinces History, New Brunswick History, Loyalists, Genealogy, Palaeography, Working With Primary Sources, Newspapers