Black Loyalist

Black Loyalist

A Black Loyalist or African American Loyalist was a formerly enslaved African American [,M1] or Free Negro who escaped to the British during the American Revolutionary War. [ [ The Black Loyalist Directory: African Americans in Exile After the American Revolution.] by Graham Russell Hodges, Susan Hawkes Cook, Alan Edward Brown (JSTOR)] Some black people in the United States promised to fight on the side of the British in return for promises of freedom from enslavement; others who were enslaved to white Loyalists were forced to be loyal to the British during the Revolutionary War.Fact|date=September 2007

Of the 3,000 free African Americans who migrated to Nova Scotia and who are listed in the Book of Negroes, the overwhelming majority joined the British cause after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, meaning they were slaves of American rebels after the United States was established as a nation. There were about 2500 African Americans who belonged to White Loyalists and they generally remained slaves until 1834, when slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire. Both the free and enslaved African American population formed the base of Black Canadian culture.

Some of the Black Loyalists were evacuated to London and were included in the population of the Black Poor, four thousand of whom migrated to Sierra Leone in 1787. Five years later 1,192 African Americans migrated there directly from Canada and are known as the Nova Scotian settlers; Thomas Jefferson referred to them as "the fugitives from these States". [ [ Thomas Jefferson's Letters ] ]

Prior to the War

Slavery in England had been abolished in 1772 after a decision from Lord Mansfield, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, but this decision did not apply in the colonies. A number of cases for emancipation were presented to the English courts, and a considerable number of runaways hoped to reach England where they hoped to be free. The belief that King George III was for them and against their masters was so strong that Colonial slave owners feared a British-inspired revolt. In early 1775 Lord Dunmore wrote to Lord Dartmouth of his intent to take advantage of this situation. [cite web |url= |title=The Revolution's Black Soldiers |accessdate=2007-10-18 |first=Robert A. |last=Selig |]


In an effort to bolster British numbers, a number of generals issued proclamations calling for slaves to be freed so that they could join the British army. Among those issuing proclamations were John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore and Sir Henry Clinton. The Governor of Jamaica, John Dalling, drafted a proposal in 1779 for the enlistment of a regiment of Mulattoes and a regiment of Negroes. [cite web |url= |title=Black Loyalists Proposed Corps |first=John |last=Dalling |authorlink=John Dalling |accessdate=2007-10-18 |date=May 25 1779 |publisher=Loyalist Institute]

Lord Dunmore's Proclamation

In November 1775 Lord Dunmore issued a controversial proclamation later known as Lord Dunmore's Proclamation. Faced with rebellion and very short of troops, Virginia's royal governor called on all able bodied men to assist him in the defense of the colony, including the enslaved Africans belonging to rebels. Slave recruits were promised their freedom in exchange for service in the British Army.

...I do require every Person capable of bearing Arms, to resort to His MAJESTY'S STANDARD, or be looked upon as Traitors to His MAJESTY'S Crown and Government, and thereby become liable to the Penalty the Law inflicts upon such Offenses; such as forfeiture of Life, confiscation of Lands, &. &. And I do hereby further declare all indented Servants, Negroes, or others, (appertaining to Rebels,) free that are able and willing to bear Arms, they joining His MAJESTY'S Troops as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper Sense of their Duty, to His MAJESTY'S Crown and Dignity.--- Lord Dunmore's Proclamation, November 7 1775 [cite web |url= |title=Lord Dunmore's Proclamation |publisher=Digital History |accessdate=2007-10-18 |date=2007-10-18]

Within a month about 800 African Americans had escaped to Norfolk, Virginia to enlist. It is likely that far more heard the call and would have joined if not for the fear of reprisal.cite web |url= |title=Lord Dunmore's Proclamation |work=Black Loyalists: Our History, Our People |accessdate=2007-10-17 |publisher=Canada's Digital Collection] cite book |title=A Companion to the American Revolution |url= |authors=Jack Phillip Greene, Jack Richon Pole |accessdate=2007-10-18 |date=2000 |publisher=Blackwell Publishing |isbn=063121058X |page=241]

Outraged Virginia slave owners decreed that runaway slaves would be executed. They also engaged in a smear campaign of the British army, stating that slaves who escaped to the British would be sold to sugar cane plantations in the West Indies. Despite this, many slaves were willing to risk life and limb for a chance at freedom. [cite web |url= |title=Escape from Slavery |work=Black Loyalists: Our History, Our People |accessdate=2007-10-17 |publisher=Canada's Digital Collection]

Dunmore's Proclamation was the first mass emancipation of enslaved people in American history. The 1776 Declaration of Independence refers obliquely to the Proclamation by citing as one of its grievances, that King George III had 'excited domestic Insurrections among us'. [cite journal | last = Kaplan | first = Sidney | year = 1976 | month = July | title = The "Domestic Insurrections" of the Declaration of Independence | journal = Journal of Negro History | volume = 61 | issue = 3 | pages = 243–255 | doi = | id = | url = | format =PDF | accessdate = 2006-11-12 ]

The Philipsburg Proclamation

With the arrival of 30,000 Hessian troops the need for Black soldiers greatly diminished. Sir William Howe banned the formation of new Black regiments and disbanded his own. But freeing slaves still held value as economic warfare. In 1776 Sir Henry Clinton issued the Philipsburg proclamation. In it he expanded Lord Dunmore's Proclamation to promise freedom to any escaped slave of a rebel. However, the escaped slaves of loyalists were often returned and the owner was requested not to punish the slave. In 1778 the Patriots responded in kind by promising freedom to escaped slaves of loyalists. In reality, most slaves who escaped to one side or the other ended up being sold back into slavery.cite web |url= |title=The Philipsburg Proclamation |accessdate=2007-10-17 |work=Black Loyalists: Our History, Our People |publisher=Canada's Digital Collection]


Lord Dunmore's proclamation, among others, led to the formation of several Black regiments in the British army. The most notable were Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment and Sir Clinton's Black Pioneers. Other regiments included the Jersey Shore Volunteers, the King's American Dragoons, the Jamaica Rangers, and the Mosquito Shore Volunteers. It was also common for Blacks to serve the military in non combat positions. cite web |url= |accessdate=2007-10-17 |title=The Royal Ethiopian |work=Black Loyalists: Our History, Our People |publisher=Canada's Digital Collection] cite web |url= |title=The Black Pioneers |accessdate=2007-10-18 |work=Black Loyalists:Our History, Our People |publisher=Canada's Digital Collection]

The Royal Ethiopian

Dunmore organised his 800 Black volunteers into the Royal Ethiopian Regiment. The unit was quickly trained in the rudiments of marching and shooting before engaging in their first conflict at the Battle of Kemp's Landing. The Patriot militia at Kemp's Landing was unprepared for the attack and quickly retreated. Next, Dunmore lead the Royal Ethiopian into the Battle of Great Bridge. But this time Dunmore was overconfident after the easy victory at Kemp's Landing and he had been misinformed about the Patriot numbers. The Patriot forces overwhelmed the British troops. After the battle Dunmore loaded his troops onto the British fleet, hoping to take the opportunity to train his troops, but the cramped conditions lead to the spread of smallpox. By the time Lord Dunmore retreated to New York only 300 of the original 800 men remained.

The Black Pioneers and Guides

The largest Black regiment was the Black Pioneers. (In the military terminology of the day, a "" was a soldier who built roads, dug trenches, and did other manual labor.) These soldiers were typically divided into smaller corps and attached to larger armies. While not a combat regiment, the Black Pioneers worked to build fortifications and other necessities and could often be called upon to work under fire. The Pioneers served under General Clinton in a support capacity in North Carolina, New York, Newport, Rhode Island, and Philadelphia. The Black Pioneers never sustained any casualties because they were never used in combat. In Philadelphia, their general orders to "...attend the scavangers, assist in cleaning the streets & removing all newsiances being thrown into the streets"sic made them little more than garbagemen. [cite web |url= |title=A History of the Black Pioneers |authors=Nan Cole and Todd Braisted |publisher=Loyalist Institute |date=February 02 2001]

The Black Brigade

The Black Brigade was a smaller combat unit of elite commandos and lead by a veteran of Lord Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment named Colonel Tye. The title Colonel was not an official military designation, as Blacks were never formally commissioned as officers. Instead such titles were permitted in an unofficial capacity. Tye and the Black Brigade were the most feared loyalists in New Jersey. They participated in several raids beginning in 1778 at the Battle of Monmouth to 1780. Tye was wounded in the wrist during a raid on a patriot militia leader. Within weeks he died from gangrene.

Postwar treatment

When peace negotiations began after the Battle of Yorktown a primary issue of debate was the fate of Black British soldiers. Even though General Cornwallis abandoned his Black troops to enslavement, many other British commanders were unwilling to do the same. Loyalists who remained in America wanted Black soldiers returned to the Americans so their chances of receiving reparations for damaged property would be increased. But British military leaders fully intended to keep the promise of freedom made to Black soldiers despite the anger of the Americans. [cite web |title=The Treaty of Paris |accessdate=2007-10-18 |url= |work=Black Loyalists: Our People, Our History |publisher=Canada's Digital Collections]

In the chaos of evacuating Loyalist refugees many American slave owners attempted to recapture their former slaves. It became common practice by some to capture any Black, including those born free before the war, and sell them into slavery. [cite web |url= |title=Chaos in New York |accessdate=2007-10-18 |work=Black Loyalists: Our People, Our History |publisher=Canada's Digital Collections] Congress ordered George Washington to retrieve any American property from the British, including slaves, as stipulated by the Treaty of Paris. Since Sir Guy Carleton intended to honor the promise of freedom, a compromise was drawn that would compensate slave owners, and allow any Black person who could prove their service certificates of freedom and the right to be evacuated to one of the British colonies. In 1793 3,000 Blacks were taken to Florida, Nova Scotia and England as free men and women. [Among them was Deborah Squash, a 20-year-old woman who had escaped from Washington's plantation in 1779. She is described in the "Book of Negroes" as a "stout wench, thick lips, pock marked. Formerly slave to General Washington, came away about 4 years ago." cite web |url= |title=Life Stories: Profiles of Black New Yorkers During Slavery and Emancipation |accessdate=2007-10-19 |year=2005 |format=PDF |work=Slavery in New York |publisher=New-York Historical Society |pages=p. 103 cite web |url= |title=Book of Negroes |accessdate=2007-10-19 |year=1783 |work=Black Loyalists: Our People, Our History |publisher=Canada's Digital Collections ] Their names were recorded in the "Book of Negroes" by General Carleton. [cite web |title=Certificates of Freedom |url= |accessdate=2007-10-18 |work=Black Loyalists: Our People, Our History |publisher=Canada's Digital Collections] cite web |title=The Book of Negroes |work=Africans in America: Revolution |accessdate=2007-10-19 |publisher=PBS |url=] The group of refugees who arrived in Nova Scotia were the largest group of people of African descent to arrive there at any one time. [cite web |url= |title=Who were the Black Loyalists? |accessdate=2007-10-18 |work=Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities in Nova Scotia |publisher=Nova Scotia Museum]

Not all were as lucky. In the south Blacks were seen as easy targets, and their claims of freedom were often ignored. Many British officers and loyalists saw them as spoils of war. When Florida was returned to Spain, many of the Blacks who had been evacuated there from the area which became the United States were left behind. [cite web |title=Returned to Slavery |accessdate=2007-10-18 |url= |work=Black Loyalists: Our People, Our History |publisher=Canada's Digital Collections]


After the war ended with American independence, the British relocated many of the Black Loyalists to Nova Scotia. They also constituted a significant element within the Black population of London. Many descendants of Black loyalists have been able to track their ancestry by using General Carleton's "Book of Negroes". [cite web |url= |title=The search:Interest in piecing together family trees grows among African-Americans |first=Irene |last=Sege |date=February 21 2007 |publisher=The Boston Globe |accessdate=2007-10-18]

ierra Leone

Sympathy for the former Black soldiers who had fought for the British stimulated support for the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor. This organization backed the settlement of the Black poor from London to Sierra Leone in West Africa. Some of the Black Loyalists from Nova Scotia would later make their way there also. Today their descendants are known as the Sierra Leone Creole people, who live primarily in the Western Area of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Black Loyalists brought their languages, such as Gullah and African American Vernacular English, to Freetown; their "lingua franca" was a great influence on their descendants who speak Krio. Many of these Sierra Leone Creoles or "Krios" can accurately trace their ancestry to their Black Loyalist ancestors. George Washington's slave Henry Washington made it to Freetown, Sierra Leone, and his descendants still live there as part of the 7% Creole population. Fact|date=October 2007

Nova Scotia

Between 1776 and 1785 around 3,500 Blacks went to Nova Scotia. This massive influx of people caused the population to triple. New Brunswick was created as a new colony in 1784 for the many new arrivals. Most of the free Blacks settled at Birchtown, the largest Black township in North America at the time. The indentured servants and newly freed slaves mostly settled in the town of Shelburne. [cite web |url= |title=Black Loyalist Communities in Nova Scotia |accessdate=2007-10-18 |publisher=Nova Scotia Museum |work=Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities in Nova Scotia]

Among these descendants are noted figures such as Rose Fortune, a Black woman living in Nova Scotia who became a police officer and a businesswoman. [cite web |url= |title=Rose Fortune, a special Canadian! |accessdate=2007-10-18 |publisher=African American Registry |date=2005]

Notable Black Loyalists

* David George
* Boston King
* John Marrant
* Cato Perkins
* Thomas Peters
* Colonel Tye
* Henry Washington

ee also

*Black Refugee (War of 1812)

References and Footnotes

External links

* [ Black Loyalist Heritage Society]
* [
* [ Africans in America:Revolution] at PBS
* [ Loyalist Institute] - Documents and writings on Black Loyalists
* [
* [,M1
* [ Enslaved Africans in Upper Canada]
* [ Nova Scotia archives, virtual exhibition]

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