Nova Scotia Archives

African Nova Scotians

in the Age of Slavery and Abolition


Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

Most black people brought to Nova Scotia between 1749 and 1782 were slaves of English or American settlers. In 1750 a Royal Navy officer, Thomas Bloss, brought 16 slaves to Halifax, perhaps in order to crew vessels involved in maritime commerce. Prominent shipowner and trader Joshua Mauger sold slaves at auction in Halifax, and newspaper advertisements for the return of runaway slaves were common. Included in the nearly 3000 inhabitants of Halifax in 1750 were about 400 enslaved and 17 free black people.

In 1759 the governor of Nova Scotia, Charles Lawrence, offered New Englanders large tracts of free land if they would move to Nova Scotia. This resulted in some 6000 settlers (Planters) relocating to Nova Scotia between 1759 and 1765. They settled in the Annapolis Valley and elsewhere and formed townships such as Cornwallis, Falmouth and Liverpool. The Planters brought their slaves, numbering in the hundreds, with them. A few free black people, such as Barbary (Barbara) Cuffy of Liverpool, also came as Planters.

Despite the growth of slavery, a few African Nova Scotians were able to gain or keep their freedom. Over half of the free black people resided in Halifax and probably made a living as common labourers, or in domestic service, stevedoring or building construction. In 1767 there were 104 free black persons living in Nova Scotia, which included present-day New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. This was less than one per cent of the total population.

During this period, enslaved African Nova Scotians worked as domestics, agricultural labourers and seafarers. However, some were skilled labourers such as carpenters, sail-makers and rope-makers. Nova Scotia's slave population at any one time during this period numbered in the hundreds. Although Nova Scotia's economic resources and climate could not sustain a plantation economy, its slave population provided a cheap source of labour. The assumption, then commonly held by Whites, that the place of Blacks was to be slaves was prevalent throughout Nova Scotia. These negative attitudes became sorely exposed following the large influx of Loyalist refugees, both white and black, at the end of the American War of Independence in 1783.


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''A view of Halifax from the topmasthead''
Date: published 25 January 1750
Engraver and publisher: T. Jeffreys
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives T. Jeffreys, Untitled Map of Halifax (London, 1750)

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

Letter from Governor Cornwallis about Captain Bloss and his slaves
Date: 22 September 1750
Reference no.: Commissioner of Public Records  Nova Scotia Archives RG 1 vol. 35 no. 25 (microfilm no. 15231)

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

"A list of settlers victual'd at this place [Halifax] between the eighteenth day of May & fourth day of June 1750..." (p. 37)
Date: 28 November 1750
Reference no.: Isaac Deschamps  Nova Scotia Archives MG 1 vol. 258 no. 12 (microfilm no. 14912)

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

Sale of a woman (age 35), two boys (ages 12 and 13), two male teenagers (ages 18), and a man (age 30)
Date: 30 May 1752
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives Halifax Gazette 30 May 1752 p. 2 (microfilm copy only available at NSARM, microfilm no. 8152)

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

Letter of Malachy Salter to his wife about a slave
Date: 2 September 1759
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives MG 100 vol. 217 no. 27f (microfilm no. 9667)

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

"A list of proprietors of the township of Liverpool with their number in family respectively"
Date: [ca. 1764]
Reference no.: Commissioner of Crown Lands  Nova Scotia Archives RG 20 series C vol. 43 no. 1

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

"A general return of the several townships in the province of Nova Scotia the first day of January 1767"
Date: 16 December 1767
Reference no.: Commissioner of Public Records  Nova Scotia Archives RG 1 vol. 443 no. 1 (microfilm no. 15479)

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

Deed from Barbary (Barbara) Cuffy to Robert Stevenson, Liverpool
Date: 7 March 1769
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives Queens County deed registers vol. 1 p. 258 (microfilm copy only available at NSARM, microfilm no. 18606)

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

Entry about the marriage of Deborah Cuffy and John Carroll, Liverpool from Simeon Perkins's diary, vol. 1 (typed transcript)
Date: 4 May 1772
Reference no.: Simeon Perkins  Nova Scotia Archives MG 1 vol. 749

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

Fugitive slave advertisement
Date: 1 September 1772
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives Nova Scotia Gazette and Weekly Chronicle 01 September 1772 p. 3 (microfilm no. 8155)

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

Boy for sale
Date: 28 March 1775
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives Nova Scotia Gazette and Weekly Chronicle 28 March 1775 p. 3 (microfilm no. 8153)

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

Bill of sale for slave named 'Dinah'
Date: 19 November 1776
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives MG 100 vol. 113 no. 51 (microfilm no. 15169)

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

Sale of slave 'Mintur' by Joseph Northrup to John Palmer in Windsor
Date: 1779
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives MG 100 vol. 14 no. 113 (microfilm no. 794)

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

Watson alias Phillis v. Proud (judgement)
Date: 1779
Reference no.: Supreme Court of Nova Scotia — Halifax County judgement books  Nova Scotia Archives RG 39 J Halifax County vol. 6 p. 103

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782

Bill of sale for slave 'Abram', recorded at the Colchester County Registry of Deeds
Date: 29 July 1779
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives Colchester County register of deeds vol. 1 p. 468 (microfilm copy only available at NSARM, microfilm no. 17438)

Theme: Slavery and Freedom, 1749-1782
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