Black Nova Scotians: Wikis


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Black Nova Scotians
Total population
19,230 – 2.1% of Nova Scotia's population[1]
Regions with significant populations
Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, predominantly in Halifax

Canadian English, Canadian French


Christianity, Islam, and others

Related ethnic groups

African Americans, Black Canadians

Black Nova Scotians are people of Black African descent, whose ancestors fled Colonial America as slaves or freemen, to settle in Nova Scotia, Canada during the 18th and 19th centuries.[2] Like African Americans, the average Black Canadian living in Nova Scotia is estimated to be of 17% European ancestry.[3]


First black person in Canada

The first recorded instance of a black presence in Canada was that of Mathieu de Costa. Da Costa arrived in Nova Scotia sometime between 1603 and 1608 as a translator for the French explorer Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts. The first known black person to live in Canada was a slave from Madagascar named Olivier Le Jeune (who may also have been of partial Malay ancestry).

Immigrants from Africa

An increasing number of immigrants from Africa have been coming to Canada, as is also the case in the United States and Europe. This includes large numbers of refugees, but also many skilled workers pursuing better economic conditions. Many black Canadians today are of Caribbean origin, with some of recent African origin and smaller numbers from Latin American countries. However, a sizable number of Black Canadians who descended from freed American slaves can be found in Nova Scotia and parts of Southwestern Ontario.



Colonial African American refugees from the American Revolution

The end of the American War of Independence led the Black Loyalists to flee what was becoming the United States of America, many being relocated in the British colony of Nova Scotia, Canada. Following Dunmore's Proclamation, the British authorities in American colonies promised freedom to the former slaves of the rebelling Americans, who escaped and made their way into British lines. Large numbers of enslaved Colonial African Americans took advantage of this opportunity to obtain their freedom and they made their way over to the British side, as did a much smaller number of free African Americans. Many of the Black Loyalists performed military service in the British Army, and others served non-military roles. Approximately three thousand Black Loyalists sailed to Nova Scotia between April and November of 1783, travelling on both Navy vessels and British chartered private transports. [4] Black people arrived in Canada in several waves. The first of these came with the French as free persons serving in the French army and navy, and some were enslaved. The British colonial authorities promised land grants to those who had escaped to the Crown during the American Revolution, though more promises were broken than kept. White American Loyalists fled north, bringing their African American slaves with them, while free African Americans also made their way to the colonies of British North America, settling predominantly in Nova Scotia. This latter group was largely made up of tradespeople and labourers, and many set up home in Birchtown near Shelburne. Many of these African Americans had roots mainly in American states like Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Maryland.[5] Some came from Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York as well.[6]

In 1782, the first race riot in North America took place there, with white soldiers attacking the black settlers who were getting work that the soldiers thought they should have. Due to the unkept promises of the British government and the discrimination from the white colonists, 1,192 African American men, women and children left Nova Scotia on January 15, 1792 and established Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Arrival of the Maroons and immigration to Sierra Leone

In 1796 approximately 600 Maroons were shipped from Jamaica to Nova Scotia, after their uprising against the British colonial government. They aided the British on the third defence at the Citadel in Halifax and on Government House, and performed other manual labour. The Maroons also attempted to farm by occupying infertile land. Like the former tenants that were poor, they occupied horrible and unproductive land at Preston; as a result they had minor success. A reason the Maroons found farming in Nova Scotia difficult is because the climate would not allow their customary food crops such as bananas, yams, pineapples or cocoa to grow. Small numbers of Maroons relocated from Preston to Boydville for better farming land. The British Lieutenant Governor Sir John Wentworth made an effort to change the Maroons’ culture and beliefs by introducing them to Christianity. The Maroons were not interested in converting from their own religion to Christianity. They were very strong, opinionated people, and would not work for less money than an average white person. In 1800 most of the Maroons took advantage of the opportunity to immigrate to Sierra Leone.[7]

African American refugees

The next major migration of blacks into Nova Scotia occurred between 1813 and 1815. Black war refugees from the United States settled in Hammonds Plains, Beechville, Lucasville and Africville.

Canada was not suited to the large-scale plantation agriculture practised in the southern United States, and slavery became increasingly rare. In 1793, in one of the first acts of the new Upper Canada colonial parliament, slavery was abolished. It was all but abolished throughout the other British North American colonies by 1800, and was illegal throughout the British Empire after 1834. This made Canada an attractive destination for those fleeing slavery in the United States, such as American minister Boston King.

Underground Railroad for African Americans

From the late 1820s until the American Civil War began in 1861, the Underground Railroad brought tens of thousands of fleeing slaves to Canada. While many of these returned to the United States after emancipation, a significant population remained, largely in Southern Ontario, widely scattered in both rural and urban locations, including Chatham, Windsor, London, Hamilton, Collingwood and Toronto.

20th century immigrants from the Caribbean and United States

In the late nineteenth century, there was an unofficial policy of restricting blacks from immigrating to Canada, and in the 1920s, formal racially-based immigration standards excluding blacks were developed. The huge influx of immigrants from Europe and the United States in the period before World War I included only very small numbers of black arrivals.

Another wave of immigration to Nova Scotia occurred in the 1920s, with blacks from the Caribbean coming to work in the steel mills of Cape Breton Island. The restrictions on immigration remained until 1962, when racial rules were eliminated from the immigration laws. This coincided with the dissolution of the British Empire in the Caribbean, and over the next decades several hundred thousand blacks came from that region to Canada.

Notable Black Nova Scotians

See also


External links


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