African American settlers (Sierra Leone)

African American settlers (Sierra Leone)

The Nova Scotian settlers (also known as the "Nova Scotians" or "Settlers") were African Americans who fought for the British army in return for freedom. [ [ Birchtown Plaque] ] Thomas Jefferson referred to these people as "the fugitives from these States" [ [ Thomas Jefferson's Letters ] ] Nearly two thirds of the Nova Scotian settlers were from Virginia. [Harvcoltxt|Huber|1999|p=62] ; a smaller number were from Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Visitors to Sierra Leone could easily tell a Nova Scotian from other ethnic groups because of their American accents [Harvcoltxt|Rankin|2005|p=76] ; many of them spoke Gullah, which is common in the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina. [ [ Gullah] ] .

The Nova Scotians were the single greatest influence on the development of Sierra Leone and their legacy remains there till this day.Fact|date=February 2008 Some of their descendants live in the former Settler Town; they comprise 7% of Sierra Leone Creole people (also known as Krio). All Nova Scotians were formerly slaves or descendants of slaves, almost all from the Thirteen Colonies and some from the newly established United States. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=205] The Nova Scotian settlers have been the subject of many social science books, and are considered the founders of the first free African American colony in Africa [] The Nova Scotians brought 'America' to Africa and despite being the second group of ex-slaves to settle in Sierra Leone, they

Background and immigration to Nova Scotia

After the British lost the War of Independence, 3,000 African Americans were evacuated to Nova Scotia [] and their names were recorded in the Book of Negroes. [Harvcoltxt|Sege|2007] The majority of the settlers had been in America for two, three or four generations. Some of the settlers were of Native American or European ancestry; at least fifty were born in Africa. Many Nova Scotian blacks intermarried with Europeans while living in Sierra Leone. The Nova Scotians' political ideology of a democratic government was at odds with the Sierra Leone Company's imperialistic colony. Despite referring to themselves as the Nova Scotians in Sierra Leone, Afro American is what the 'Nova Scotians' really were [ [ Our Roots / Nos Racines ] ] . The 1783 black settlers (who encompass the Nova Scotians) were American blacks [] Some of the original settlers of Sierra Leone or the "Black Poor" were American blacks [,M1] American blacks are now considered the founders of both Sierra Leone and Liberia [] Arschlo ihr behinderten wixxer

Life in Nova Scotia

Upon arrival in Nova Scotia, the settlers were treated as badly as the slaves. Some of the African Americans whose slave owners were American Loyalists were still under slavery. Their descendants comprised the Black Nova Scotians, a contingent of Black Canadians. In 1792, nearly 1,200 (approximately 1,192) Black American settlers left Halifax, Nova Scotia and immigrated to Sierra Leone. [Harvcoltxt|Winks|1997|p=76] The Settlers spoke Gullah and African American Vernacular English. The Nova Scotians were the only mass group of African Americans to immigrate to Sierra Leone under the auspices of the British; [Harvcoltxt|Brooke|1999] it was decided that because of the attitude of the Nova Scotians no other American blacks would be allowed to immigrate in large groups to Sierra Leone.

Immigration to Sierra Leone

Some African Americans decided not to immigrate to Sierra Leone; their descendants became Black Nova Scotians/Black Canadians [ [ The Canadian Encyclopedia ] ] . Fifteen ships left Halifax Harbour in January, 1792 and the latest arrived in March, 1792; the last ship contained Clarkson as he was sick and the ship he was on became delayed because of Clarkson.

ettler Town

Upon reaching Sierra Leone in 1792, the Nova Scotians established Settler Town, Sierra Leone based upon the town of the American South, [Harvcoltxt|Fage|Oliver|1975|p=177] which was in close proximity to Cline Town, Sierra Leone or then, "Granville Town." Eighty percent of Nova Scotians lived on five streets: Rawdon, Wilberforce, Howe, East, and Charlotte street. Seventy percent of Maroon Settlers lived on five streets: Glouchester, George, Trelawney, Walpole, and Westmoreland street. The main Nova Scotian churches were in Settler Town; Rawdon Street Methodist Church was one of the main churches methodist churches. The modern day Ebenezer Methodist Church is an offshoot of Rawdon Methodist; it was founded by wealthy Nova Scotians. Many Nova Scotian families were forced to sell their land because of debt; families such as the Balls, the Burdens, the Chambers, the Dixons, the Georges (descendants of David George), the Keelings, the Leighs, the Moores, the Peters (descendants of Thomas Peters), the Prestons, the Snowballs, the Staffords, the Turners, the Willoughsby, the Zizers, the Williams, and the Goodings. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=350] Some descendants of James Wise and other settlers were able to keep their land in Settler Town.

Relationship with Granville Town settlers

The Granville Town settlers (Cline Town, Sierra Leone) were initially separate from the Nova Scotian community. After Methodist teaching to the Granville Town settlers, they were slowly incorporated into the African Americans society of the Nova Scotians. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=198] Nova Scotians like Boston King were schoolteachers were to the children of Granville Town settlers. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=203]

French Attack

During the French war with England, the French attacked and burned Freetown. The Nova Scotians offered the only resistance to the French during this time period. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=189] The settlers assured the French they were AmericansHarvcoltxt|Pybus|2007|p=?] and were friends of the French. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=182] Despite showing they were Americans, the French still carried off two Nova Scotian boys as slaves. Zachary Macauley demanded all the supplies the Nova Scotians had managed to take from the French back. Many Methodist preacher declared it was the judgment of God against their evil caucasian oppressors. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=183] The aftermath of this resulted in Nathaniel Snowball and Luke Jordan establishing their own colony on Pirate's Bay to live as free men just as the 'Ezerlites.Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=184]

Rebellion of 1800

The American Nova Scotians viewed themselves as free negroes who were free to govern themselves. They refused to be dominated by the white officials, and because many had heard the ideology of their American slave owners they refused to be controlled and demanded their 'inalienable rights'. Because of the Sierra Leone Company's hostility to the Nova Scotian settlers, no more American blacks were allowed through official channels in Sierra Leone []

Life in Sierra Leone

The Nova Scotians were successful traders and schoolteachers in Sierra Leone; many were also missionaries to indigeneous people in Sierra Leone. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=190] The Nova Scotians had their own independent churches which were based on their traditionalAfrican American religious doctrines. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=195]

Democracy and Rebellion

The Nova Scotians were initially free negroes in Sierra Leone; they had the right to vote and were able to elect leaders among them. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=221] Richard Crankapone was the Nova Scotian Town Marshall in Settler Town. After a rebellious outbreak by Robert Keeling and Scipio Channel, more outbursts insued by Lewis Kirby and Simon caused further unrest. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=178] Ishamel York and Stephen Peters also supported the rebellion. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=225] The Nova Scotians had to deal with Temne chiefs such as Bai Firanha in order to negotiate for land. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=222]


The Nova Scotians were exceptional traders and the houses they built in Settler Town, which were initially built of wood and had grass roofs, were renovated into stone houses. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=287] At this time, the Nova Scotians lived in Eastern Freetown and the Jamaican Maroons were situated in Western Freetown. Soon, however, the Maroons and the Nova Scotians became one fused ethnic group and were listed in the census as 'Nova Scotians'. The Maroons were still distinct but became a more solid group and adopted some Nova Scotians values and customs. The Maroons became a cohesive trading unit, they displaced the Nova Scotians as the main traders in Sierra Leone in the 1820s. Nova Scotian trader such as Richard George (who was actually a Jamaiacan Maroon), Cato Preston, Eli Ackim, William Easmon, and John Kizell were forced to give up their homes because of business ventures gone wrong. In the 1826 census about half of the Nova Scotian males were skilled artisans and only three were listed as unskilled workers. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=314] Initially, the Nova Scotians were allowed to use the American currency of dollars and cents by the Sierra Leone Company; however, this changed when the company wanted to be rid of the 'American ways' of the Nova Scotians. Trade was opened up with the United States in 1831, and many Nova Scotians would eventually return to their homeland in the United States [,M1]


The Nova Scotians founded the Masonic Lodge in Sierra Leone. They had dance nights called 'Koonking' or 'Koonken' or 'Konken,' where the Nova Scotians would sing songs they brought from the United States or songs originating in Sierra Leone satirizing Caucasians. The majority of Nova Scotians spoke with a Southern dialect and one could easily tell they were from the American South. The Nova Scotians drank alcohol heavily and David George [Harvcoltxt|Pybus|2007|p=210] and David Edmonds kept alehouses in the 1790s. Nova Scotian women were independent and established schools and acted as schoolteachers.Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=207] Extramarital affairs were also prominent in the community and many Nova Scotian men had mistresses and they provided for their illegitimate children; [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=206] many times they left land and property for them in their wills. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=310]

British policy toward American blacks

Because of British disdain towards the Nova Scotians, the British would no longer sanction mass immigration of African Americans. When the Elizabeth from New York arrived with 82 African Americans, the British did not permit them to land or settle in Freetown. These African Americans led by Daniel Coker were offered land to settle in Sherbro by John Kizell an African born Nova Scotian settlers. After the terrible conditions for the settlers at Sherbro, they were moved to land in the Grain Coast; the African Americans who moved there in 1820 were the first settlers of what would be Liberia. No other blacks from Nova Scotia were ever brought to Freetown under the auspices of the Sierra Leone Company.

Relationships with Europeans

Many European missionaries such as Gustuvas Nylander, Melchior Renner, the Wenzel, married Nova Scotian women and their descendants such as the Awooner-Renners, the Wenzels, and the Broadhursts are prominent families in Freetown, Sierra Leone. An English carpenter,George Nicol, married a daughter of the Nova Scotian, Sophia Small, and the Nichols are the descendants of this union. Many Nova Scotian mulattos were in the colony; their descendants continued intermarrying in the Nova Scotian elite circles. [Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=255]

Ethnicity in Sierra Leone

The Nova Scotians were listed on census records in Sierra Leone as the "Nova Scotians" and retained the status as a separate ethnic group from 1792 until the 1870s. In Sierra Leone, the Nova Scotians were considered Black Nova Scotians of Afro American descent until they were listed as Sierra Leone Creole people in the 1880s census. The term "Nova Scotian" in Freetown was interchangeable with an American black or Black American.

According to the 1831 census of Freetown, Sierra Leone, 84% of Nova Scotian settlers had Sierra Leone Liberated Africans as their apprentices and household servants many took the 'settler's name'. The descendants of the Nova Scotian settlers and Maroons formed the "Nova Scotian and Maroon descendants Association" and on January 1 1859 and among the 82 signatories were representatives of the Peters, Snowball, George, Elliott, Prophet, Hazeley, Stober, Leigh, Easmon, Gordon, Dixon, and Wright families.

In 1811 census there was a total of 982 Nova Scotians of which 188 were men, 295 were women, and the majority of 499 were children. According to that census there was also a total of 807 Maroons of which 165 were men, 195 were women, and the majority of 447 like the Nova Scotians were children.


The majority of Nova Scotians were Methodist; a smaller minority were Baptist.Harvcoltxt|Walker|1992|p=197] One half and two thirds of the Nova Scotians were Methodist; the former Anglican settlers converted to Methodism and the Methodists incorporated Moses Wilkinson's congregation, Boston King's congregation, and Joseph Leonard's Anglican congregation which was openly Methodist.

Relationship with Liberated Africans

The Nova Scotians held the Liberated Africans in utter contempt and refused to intermarry with the group. [Harvcoltxt|Norton|1849|p=241] The hostility was due to what many Nova Scotians regarded as the Liberated Africans uncivilized ways of acting. Some Nova Scotians were noted as living in Regent and in other Liberated African villages. [Harvcoltxt|Huber|2000|p=288]

Relationship with Indigeneous Sierra Leoneans

Many Nova Scotians such as Robert Keeling lived and cultivated indigeneous African farmlands. Nova Scotia independence and democracy were rampant due to their good relationship with the Indigeneous people whom the Nova Scotians felt they could trust.

Immigration back to the United States

Many settlers immigrated back to the United States and Canada after disagreements with the colonial government. [Harvcoltxt|Sibthorpe|1970|p=50] Many of the Jamaican Maroon settlers immigrated back to the Jamaica because they wished to return to their homeland.

Census and Population

In the 1811 census, the Nova Scotian numbered 982, but by the 1850 census they numbered only 49.Harvcoltxt|Huber|1999|p=49] Many Nova Scotians joined the Nova Scotian and Maroon Descendants Association, and there were 82 signatories representing the various families which remained Nova Scotian. According to the 1860 census there were only 22 Nova Scotians.Harvcoltxt|Kuczynski|1948|p=?] Only 15 Maroon settlers remained alongside the 49 Nova Scotians in 1850.

Relationship with Black Nova Scotians and African Americans

The Nova Scotian settlers bore children during their nine year tenure in Nova Scotia; these children called themselves Black Nova Scotians but retained many African American cultural habits. African Americans who joined the British never became Black British or Black Canadians instead they retained their African American identity despite leaving the United States (,M1). The older generation of Nova Scotians settlers were African Americans and retained all the African American cultural traits they had learned while in North America and specifically in the United States. The descendants of the Nova Scotian settlers (who make up a small percent of the Sierra Leone Creole people) are the cousins of both Black Nova Scotians and African Americans.

Notable Nova Scotian settlers

*Thomas Peters- Black leader in Sierra Leone
*David George-African American Baptist preacher
*Boston King- Black American Methodist preacher
*Henry Washington-slave of U.S. President George Washington

Descendants of the settlers

*McCormack Easmon- prominent Krio doctor

See also

*African American diaspora
*African Americans
*Atlantic slave trade
*History of Sierra Leone
*Philipsburg Proclamation
*Slavery in the United States



*Harvard reference
title=Birchtown Journal; For Nova Scotia Blacks, Veil Is Ripped From Past
newspaper=New York Times
date=October 8

*Harvard reference
first2=Roland Anthony
title= [ The Cambridge History of Africa]
publisher=Cambridge University Press

*Harvard reference
title= [ Ghanaian Pidgin English in Its West African Context]
publisher=John Benjamins Publishing Company

*Harvard reference
chapter=Restructuring in vitro? Evidence from Early Krio
title= [ Degrees of restructuring in creole languages]
publisher=John Benjamins

*Harvard reference
first=Robert René
title=Demographic Survey of the British Colonial Empire
publisher=Oxford University Press

*Harvard reference
title= [ A Residence at Sierra Leone: Described from a Journal Kept on the Spot, and From Letters Written to Friends at Home]
publisher=J. Murray

*Harvard reference
first=F. Harrison
title= [ The White Man's Grave: A Visit to Sierra Leone in 1834]
publisher=Adamant Media Corporation

*Harvard reference
title= [ Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution And Their Global Quest for Liberty]
publisher=Beacon Press

*Harvard reference
date=February 21, 2007
title=The Search
newspaper=Boston Globe
retrieved=20 February, 2008

*Harvard reference
title= [ The History of Sierra Leone]

*Harvard reference
first=Samuel Abraham
title= [ The Church of England Mission in Sierra Leone: Including an Introductory Account of That Colony, and a Comprehensive Sketch of the Niger Expedition in the year 1841]
publisher=Seeley, Burnside and Seeley

*Harvard reference
title= [ The Black Loyalists: The Search for a Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone 1783 ~ 1870]
publisher=University of Toronto Press

*Harvard reference
first=Robin W.
title= [ The Blacks in Canada: A History]
publisher=McGill-Queen's Press

External links


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