Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Black Loyalists?

In case some of you missed it, a comment was left a while ago questioning my use of the term Black Loyalist in a few of the posts I have made. Since February is African Heritage Month and I have been meaning to write another installment in the Black Loyalist story, this is a good opportunity to open up a bit of historic discussion.

Essentially, the writer was complaining that the term Black Loyalist was not appropriate as few members of this group were actually loyal to the British Crown. These people were using the British as a way to escape slavery so they were decidedly more interested in freedom than loyalty to the Crown. As these people were refugees, it was his feeling that the use of ther term Loyalist was more to fit Canadian historical ideals than to accurately represent this group.

So, this begs the question, were the Black Loyalists loyal to the British Crown. Except in a very few cases the answer would undoubtedly be no. These were people using the British as a means to escape slavery. Unlike some of the other Loyalists, these were not people who decided for idealogical reasons that they wanted to stay loyal to the British. Many Black Loyalists did fight with the British but this was due to offers of freedom for their services. Even more telling, when given the opportunity to return to Africa, many of the Black Loyalists chose to leave Nova Scotia for Sierra Leone.

The next question, what should this group be called? Nova Scotian author and poet George Elliot Clarke has coined the term Africadian, a clever combination of African and Acadian (for those who do not know, Acadians were the French population who have lived in Nova Scotia since the early seventeenth century). While I do like this term, it is not really appropriate for the generation who arrived in the 1780s. It does not provide much context for their struggles. So, I will encourage any discussion that people would like to have about the Black Loyalists and what they should be called. As a warning, while this discussion is taking place, I will probably use the term Black Loyalists just so people have an idea of who I am writing about.

I have used today's image before but, Rose Fortune is such an icon of the Black Loyalists in Annapolis Royal and Nova Scotia that she deserves to be seen as often as possible.

All for now,
RGS

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