Nova Scotia Archives

African Nova Scotians

in the Age of Slavery and Abolition


Providing Access to the Language of Archival Documents

A major goal of this virtual exhibit and online resource has been to present a wide range of documentary materials relating to African Nova Scotians as impartially and free of imposed opinions or interpretations as possible. The purpose of any additional information accompanying the documents is simply to provide information about their context or explain their content. However, the major focus is on the documents themselves.

Wherever appropriate, the documents are presented and explained using the terminology of the time in which they were created. However, certain terms such as 'Negro', 'colored' or 'mulatto' appearing in the original documents are no longer acceptable. Such historical terms are placed in quotation marks. Where such a term appears as part of a phrase in an original document, the entire phrase appears in quotation marks, e.g:

  • Certificate of Ned, his wife and family as "free Negroes"
  • Certificate of manumission for 'James', a four month old "mulatto child"

Where the term 'colored' or 'Negro' appears as part of an original title, one set of quotation marks only is used, around the entire title, e.g.,

  • "Fortune, a Free Negro"
  • "Book of Negroes"
  • "Petition of the colored people settlers at Beech Hill near Halifax"

The text of the exhibit makes frequent use of contemporary terms such as 'African Nova Scotians', 'African Americans' and 'Blacks'. The term "Blacks" is used interchangeably with the preceding two. Where the term 'Blacks' appears as a noun, it is capitalized. Where 'black' appears as an adjective, as in the phrase 'black people', it is given in lower case. The exception is in phrases quoted from original documents, e.g., "Phillis Thomas, a free Black woman" or "Black Refugees".