From Slavery to Freetown

Black Loyalists After the American Revolution


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About the Book

During the American Revolution over 3,000 persons of African descent were promised freedom by the British if they would desert their American rebel masters and serve the loyalist cause. Those who responded to this promise found refuge in New York. In 1783, after Britain lost the war, they were evacuated to Nova Scotia, where for a decade they were treated as cheap labor by the white loyalists. In 1792 they were finally offered a new home in West Africa; over 1,200 responded and became the founders of Freetown in Sierra Leone.
This history follows ten of these freed slaves from their escape from masters in Virginia and the Carolinas to their sojourn in wartime New York, their evacuation to Nova Scotia and finally their exodus to Freetown, where they struggled for another decade for not only freedom and dignity but the right to worship as they choose, make an honest living, and govern themselves.

About the Author(s)

Mary Louise Clifford became interested in the first settlers of Freetown while living in Hill Station while her husband served as UN economic advisor to the prime minister of Sierra Leone. She has also written works on Liberia, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and the Arabian Peninsula. She lives in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

Mary Louise Clifford
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 259
Bibliographic Info: maps, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006 [1999]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2557-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0722-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction      1

Part I. The War for Independence

1. Mary Perth of Norfolk, Virginia      9

2. Moses Wilkinson of Nansemond County, Virginia      15

3. David George of Essex County, Virginia      19

4. Four Men from Charleston: Boston King, IsaacAnderson, Cato Perkins, and John Kizell      23

5. Thomas Peters of Wilmington, North Carolina      26

6. Refuge in British New York      29

7. Peace Treaty Terms      32

8. Evacuation from New York      36

Part II. Nova Scotia

9. The Founding of Birchtown      43

10. Education Mattered      51

11. Black Preachers Offer Hope      53

12. Farms for White Loyalists      58

13. Thomas Peters in Annapolis County      61

Part III. The Province of Freedom

14. Refuge in London      67

15. The Founding of Granville Town      73

16. Thomas Peters Travels to London      80

17. An Emissary from the Sierra Leone Company      84

18. Bonds Forged in Nova Scotia Congregations      90

19. Still Searching for Freedom and Security      97

Part IV. Freetown

20. Plans to Govern Freetown      105

21. To the Cotton Tree      109

22. An Erratic Beginning      112

23. Continuing Confusion      118

24. Ill Will Between John Clarkson and Thomas Peters      124

25. Baptists and Methodists Follow Different Paths      130

26. The Calypso Passengers Interrupt      140

27. New Company Officials      143

28. Land Grants at Last      145

29. Angry Settlers Choose Emissaries to the Sierra Leone Company Directors      152

30. Two Governors: Richard Dawes and Zachary Macaulay      158

31. A Chosen People      166

32. The Outside World Intrudes      170

33. Mary Perth as Housekeeper      176

34. Quarrels Over Religion      178

35. Growing Prosperity      183

36. Insurrection and Defeat      189

37. Transition      197

38. The Crown Replaces the Sierra Leone Company      204

39. Farewell, Cotton Tree      211

Epilogue      214

Appendix: Roster of Prominent Emigrants to Freetown      217

Notes      223

Bibliography      239

Index      243

Book Reviews & Awards

“an important contribution…Clifford has uncovered a fascinating and underrepresented aspect of the black diaspora”—Library Journal; “a significant story movingly told”—Daily Press; “draws on a variety of sources, including memoirs of some of the settlers, diaries of the British in Sierra Leone, and official records in London and Halifax”—The Virginia Gazette.