Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Black Loyalists part 3

I suppose that this is a good time for another installment in the story of the Black Loyalists. I have made two previous posts where I have chronicled the history of the Black Loyalists. These can be found by following the hyperlink above.

In my last post, the Black Loyalists had arrived in Nova Scotia at the end of the American Revolution. They were hoping to find freedom and to improve their lives. While freedom was available to most, greatly improved lives were still somewhat out of reach for most Black Loyalists. There was no equality for Blacks in their allocations of land, their ability to find work or their treatment by the judicial system. By the summer of 1784 significant racial tensions began to emerge.

In Shelburne, many Blacks had trouble finding work so they accepted low wages so they would be hired. This upset many of the disbanded British soldiers who were also looking for work. Essentially, they felt that the Blacks were taking jobs from them. Things reached a head when David George, a Black Baptist Minister, began baptizing white people. After a confrontation at his church one evening, white settlers began to tear down the houses of George and some of his followers. As the mob grew to hundreds of people, additional houses (twenty in total) were pulled down and any member of the Black community unlucky enough to be found was beaten. Most of the Black community's belongings were stolen or ruined. George, who was found hiding in a swamp, was savagly beaten. The violence, beatings and destruction of property continued until the next month when the military arrived to restore calm.

Learning that he was one of the targets of the rioters, Benjamin Marston, the man given the task of distributing land, had left for Halifax at the start of the commotion. In the aftermath of the riots, Marston, who was accused of taking bribes, became a easy scapegoat for Governor John Parr. Marston was quickly relieved of his duties and the responsibility for distributing land fell to a influential group known as the Port Roseway Associates. This change meant that Blacks would continue to receive poor treatment in the distribution of land.

When order finally returned, Governor Parr's goal was not to compensate the victims. His main goal was to pacify the rioters. To the Black community, this was yet another example of how they had unequal treatment under the law.

Meanwhile, in the Annapolis Royal and Digby region, a man named Thomas Peters was quickly becoming one of the main political representatives of the Black community. Our next chapter will deal with Mr. Peters and his political activities in Nova Scotia and London. We will even get a bit closer to the trip back to Africa I have been promising.

The map of Birchtown at the top of this post has been borrowed from the this website. For anyone looking for a very accessible but detailed version of the Black Loyalist story I would highly recommend this site.

All for now,
RGS

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