Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities in Nova Scotia
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Research Data at the History Section, Nova Scotia Museum


  • "A People's Odyssey, 400 Years of Nova Scotian History." 2000. Shunpiking, Nova Scotia's Discovery Magazine. Halifax.
  • "Black History and African Heritage." 1999. Shunpiking, Nova Scotia's Discovery Magazine, supplement. Halifax.
  • Gordon, Grant. 1992. From Slavery to Freedom: The Life of David George, Pioneer Black Baptist Minster. Hantsport, NS: Published by Lancelot Press for Acadia Divinity College and the Baptist Historical Committee of the United Baptist Convention of the Atlantic Provinces.*
  • Grant, John N. 1973. "Black Immigrants into Nova Scotia, 1776-1815." Journal of Negro History, vol. 58, no. 3.
  • MacKinnon, Neil. 1986. This Unfriendly Soil: The Loyalist Experience in Nova Scotia, 1783-1791. Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press.
  • Niven, Laird. 1994. Birchtown Archaeological Survey (1993). Lockeport, NS: Roseway Publishing Company.
  • ---. 2000. "Testing Two Sites in Birchtown." In Archaeological Surveys in Two Black Communities, 1998. Nova Scotia Museum curatorial report no. 92. Halifax: Nova Scotia Museum. [ Purchase at NS Museum Book Store ]
  • ---. 2000. Was This the Home of Stephen Blucke? The Excavation of AkDi-23, Birchtown, Shelburne County. Nova Scotia Museum curatorial report no. 93. Halifax: Nova Scotia Museum. [ Purchase at NS Museum Book Store ]
  • Pachai, Bridglal. 1987. Beneath the Clouds of the Promised Land: The Survival of Nova Scotia's Blacks. Vol. 1, 1600-1800. Halifax: Black Educators Association of Nova Scotia.*
  • ---. 1991. Beneath the Clouds of the Promised Land: The Survival of Nova Scotia's Blacks. Vol. 2, 1800-1989. Halifax: Black Educators Association of Nova Scotia.
  • Phillips, Dorrie. 1983. "Early Years of the Black Loyalists." In Loyalists in Nova Scotia: Biographies of Loyalist Settlers, edited by Lester B. Sellick and Donald Wetmore. Hantsport, NS: Lancelot Press.
  • Powell, Stephen. 2000. "Surveying the Tracadie Area." In Archaeological Surveys in Two Black Communities, 1998. Nova Scotia Museum curatorial report no. 92. Halifax: Nova Scotia Museum. [ Purchase at NS Museum Book Store ]
  • Robertson, Carmelita. 2000. Tracing the History of Tracadie Loyalists, 1776-1787. Nova Scotia Museum curatorial report no. 91. Halifax: Nova Scotia Museum. [ Purchase at NS Museum Book Store ]
  • Walker, James W. St. G. 1976. The Black Loyalists: the Search for a Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, 1783-1870. New York: Africana Publishing Company [and Dalhousie University Press].*
  • Whitehead, Ruth Holmes. 2000. The Shelburne/Birchtown Black Loyalists. Nova Scotia Museum curatorial report no. 90. Halifax: Nova Scotia Museum. [ Purchase at NS Museum Book Store ]
  • Whitehead, Ruth Holmes, and Carmelita Robertson. 2000. The Memoirs of Boston King. In publication. Halifax: Nova Scotia Museum.
  • Wilson, Ellen Gibson. 1976. The Loyal Blacks. New York: Capricorn Press (G.P. Putnam's Sons).
*Available to Teachers in Nova Scotia at the Department of Education Book Bureau

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Web Sites
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Available to Teachers in Nova Scotia from Education Media Library, Nova Scotia Department of Education
  • Digging for Slaves. 50 min. 1989. International Tele-Film Ltd. 22388 [VHS loan]
  • Escape to Nova Scotia. 58:51 min. 1998. Learning Resources and Technology. V 2170 [video dubbing]
  • Hymn to Freedom Series. 230 min. 1994. International Tele-Film Ltd. [Video dubbing]
  • Includes Nova Scotia: Against the Tides 57:30 min. 1994. V 1643 [Video dubbing]
  • Loyalties. 56:50 min. 1998. Ziji Productions and the National Film Board of Canada. Available from the NFB
  • Lucy's Bet: Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia. 33:37 min. 1991. Learning Resources and Technology. V 1144 [Video Dubbing] Teacher's guide included.

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Research Data at the History Section, Nova Scotia Museum

Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities Historical Research Activity and Outcomes
The historical research undertaken in this project involved two principal streams: research aimed at better understanding the circumstances and connections of Black Loyalists prior to their removal to Nova Scotia, and research focussing on the experience of Black Loyalists once they arrived in the province.

Research on the pre-Nova Scotian context was undertaken by the NSM's ethnologist, Ruth Holmes Whitehead, who focussed on sources that provided information on the conditions from which the Black Loyalists came - principally slavery - and the reason for their migration, the American Revolution. Because many of those who emigrated to Nova Scotia came from South Carolina, emphasis was put on researching South Carolina sources, such as wills and inventories, maps, diaries, contemporary narratives and runaway slave ads, to determine exactly where individual Black Loyalists had worked and lived, their genealogies, and history of ownership if enslaved.

Research on the Nova Scotian context was undertaken by Project Historian, Carmelita Robertson, a Black Loyalist descendant. The Project Historian's work included training and coordinating local researchers in each of the two Black Loyalist communities: in Birchtown, Marjorie Turner-Bailey, Gary Jacklin and David Hartley, who are all descendants of Black Loyalists, and in Tracadie, Monica Kennedy. Training workshops held with local researchers included hands-on instruction in conducting oral interviews, locating and accessing research sources, and collecting and recording historical data.

The historical data, collected during the project Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities and maintained by the History Section of the Nova Scotia Museum includes:

    . Oral interviews (tapes and transcripts)
    . Family genealogies (Birchtown/Shelburne only)
    . Historic photographs
    . Wills (abstracts & copies if available)
    . Cemetery inventories
    . Land papers (abstracts & copies if available)
    . Inventory site forms for buildings associated with Black Loyalists and their descendants
    . Miscellaneous material, including church records, newspaper survey (Shelburne papers), diaries, contemporary narratives, and ledger books.
    . Two curatorial reports are also available, and are listed in the Publications section.
Each of the community partners also has a copy of the data collected during the project.

Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities Archaeological Research Results
Working under the direction of NSM archaeologist David Christianson, Project Archaeologist Stephen Powell oversaw the Tracadie field work, while Project Archaeologist Laird Niven led the field work in Birchtown. Field work in both locations was supported by Field Assistants Katie Cottreau-Robins and Sharain Jones, a Black Loyalist descendant. Additional field support in Tracadie was provided by volunteer James Desmond, and in Birchtown by three individuals hired by the Black Loyalist Heritage Society: Corey Guye, Amanda Page, and Stanley Bower.

Since there had been no survey of Black Loyalist settlement features in the Tracadie area, the main focus of the Tracadie archaeology was to locate and document sites associated with early Black Loyalist settlers in the 1787 Brownspriggs-grant area of Antigonish and Guysborough Counties.

Sixteen areas of archaeological interest were recorded during the course of the survey. Based on a small artifact sample, evidence found at one site located within the 1787 grant area suggests it may have been the home of one of the first Black families in the East Tracadie area. Many of the other sites found during the survey can be directly associated with the descendants of Black Loyalist families. While more work is required to record settlement features and cemetery sites in greater detail, this preliminary archaeological study increases the awareness and knowledge of Black Loyalist sites within eastern Nova Scotia.

In contrast, archaeological work in Birchtown began in 1993 and as of the year 2000, has continued every year since, revealing the location of a number of features associated with Black Loyalist settlement. As a result, the principal objective of the Birchtown archaeology was to gain a deeper understanding of the community through more detailed archaeological investigation of selected settlement features.

The field work was designed in three phases:

(i) Surveying of the Goulden and Acker properties, land suspected of having belonged to Col. Stephen Blucke, the man who led the Black Loyalists in Birchtown. This survey led to a decision to carry out a detailed excavation on the site, in search of a house formerly on the property. As stated in Laird Niven's report, "The testing and excavation revealed the cellar of a relatively substantial building that appears to have been abandoned by the end of the eighteenth century. The artifacts recovered were exceptional for what we know of the Black Loyalist period in Birchtown, not only because of their quantity but their quality as well."

(ii) Testing of a probable Black Loyalist dwelling, north of the town, to confirm that it dated to the eighteenth century. The presence of several diagnostic artifacts at this site suggested a date of 1783 to before the 1790s, and that the occupation is almost certainly Black Loyalist. The single stone wall found indicates a very rudimentary structure, which appears to represent a more typical Black Loyalist dwelling and stands in contrast to the relative wealth of the Acker site.

(iii) Bisection of a selected rock mound (one of a series of 22 mounds), in the hopes of recovering stratigraphic and artifactual data that would answer questions regarding the age of the mound, cultural affiliation, and/or function. Although excavation revealed that the mound was deliberately constructed, and does not appear to be the result of standard field clearing as we understand it, no features or artifacts were encountered to suggest age, cultural affiliation or function.

Results of archaeological investigation, maintained by the History Section, NSM, are available to community partners as well as other interested parties. These include:

. Approximately 16,000 recovered artifacts, and associated documentation
. Photographic documentation of the fieldwork undertaken, particularly extensive for Birchtown
. Documentation of seventeen sites associated with Black Loyalists, using the Maritime Archaeology Resource Inventory (MARI) form
. Two curatorial reports, listed in the Publications section.

The Black Cultural Heritage Data Collection: 1991-1997
By the time work on Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities began in 1998, the Nova Scotia Museum had already compiled a collection of information on Nova Scotia's Black heritage that includes primary research, archaeological investigations, oral histories, and historical photographs and illustrations.

The collection contains the following material:

Newspaper Survey
A total of 682 historical newspapers in the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management collection, Halifax, have been surveyed for mentions of Black persons; 229 contained Black material yielding a total of 2500 references. Skeletal data from all references has been recorded; the complete text of some references has also been recorded. This information is available on a disk at Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, and in hard copy with the History Section of the Nova Scotia Museum.

Newspapers surveyed include:

Acadian Recorder, 1840-41
Halifax Journal, 1790-1800, 1812, 1813, 1840-41
Halifax Gazette, 1752-1765
Halifax Gazette or Weekly Advertiser, 1765-1766
Halifax Morning Post & Parliamentary Reporter, 1841
Nova Scotia Gazette, 1766-1770
Nova Scotia Gazette & Weekly Chronicle, 1771-1774
Nova Scotia Magazine, 1790-1792
Nova Scotia Royal Gazette, 1840
Royal Gazette & the Nova Scotia Advertiser, 1790-1799
Times, 1841
Weekly Chronicle, 1790-1800, 1812-13

Archaeology Permit Reports
"Archaeological Survey of AkDi-5 to 15, Birchtown, Nova Scotia", Laird Niven, 1993 (Permit No. A1993NS18).
"Archaeological Fieldschool at AkDi-12, Birchtown, Shelburne County", Nova Scotia, Laird Niven and Stephen David, 1994 (Permit No. A1994NS14).
"Archaeology Survey of AkDi-16, Turner Property, Birchtown, Nova Scotia", Laird Niven, 1995 (Permit No. A1995NS21).
"Archaeological Survey of AkDi-17 to 22, Birchtown, Nova Scotia", Laird Niven,1995 (Permit No. A1995NS29).
"Archaeological Survey of AkDi-21, Birchtown, Nova Scotia", Laird Niven,1996 (Permit No. A1996NS58).

Unpublished Research Reports
"Black Loyalists and the Tracadie Land Grant", Carmelita Robertson and Ruth Holmes Whitehead, 1997.
"Tracadie Oral Interviews" (edited transcripts), Carmelita Robertson, 1997.
"Looking for Connections: A Search for Black Genealogies and Possible Mi'kmaq Inter-marriage in Southern Nova Scotia", Sharain Jones, 1997.

Oral History Interviews
With selected elders in the Tracadie area, collected 1996-1997.

Copies of historic photos from families in the Tracadie area and from the Guysborough Museum collection, as well as documentary photos of sites associated with Black Loyalists in the Tracadie area, such as buildings and cemeteries.

The Nova Scotia Museum would like to acknowledge a number of individuals and programs that contributed over time to the development of this collection, including Rachael Colley Whynot, Affirmative Action student (1992); Tammy Poirier, Nova Scotia Community College work-placement student (1995); Jemal Abawajy, Graduate student born in Oromia, East Africa (1995); Carmelita Robertson (a Black Loyalist descendant), Graduate Student (1995), Volunteer (1995-96), NSM Black History Research Grant Recipient (1996), Arts Apprentice, Department of Canadian Heritage Multiculturalism Program (1997); Christine Hobin, Volunteer (1997-98); Elizabeth Peirce, Volunteer (1997-98), and Sharain Jones (a Black Loyalist descendant), NSM Black History Research Grant Recipient (1997).

The Museum also wishes to acknowledge the individual who twice made it financially possible to undertake some of this research, and who prefers to remain anonymous.

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