Today we celebrate Fourth of July comfortable with the assumption that this holiday unites Americans of all colors and creeds in the commemoration of the birth of American freedom. However, for the majority of African Americans, the Revolution did not offer the prospect of emancipation. Whereas the small number of African slaves in the new states of New England successfully petitioned for their freedom and northern states generally embraced at least gradual abolition, the war for independence in the plantation South only led to a further entrenchment of slavery as a white American’s essential property right. The promise of Virginia’s royal governor Lord Dunmore that the slaves of rebels would earn their freedom in British military service united Southern white slaveholders as revolutionaries and offered runaway slaves the opportunity of a life in freedom. Britain’s defeat meant that these black loyalists would have to find their freedom in exile, and about 3,000 of them fled from New York to the province of Nova Scotia, where they struggled to establish communities and faced persecution and resentment from surrounding white settlements. They faced the first anti-black riot as early as 1782. In 1791, the Sierra Leone Company offered them the opportunity to build a free community on the West Coast of Africa in Freetown, the capital of the nation with the same name. The story of this African loyalist diaspora, which carried some former American slaves as far away as Australia, serves as a powerful testimony to the determined struggle for freedom among African-Americans.
The source for this activity is a 2013 news clip from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation featuring the story of one African-Canadian in search of his loyalist roots.
In this discussion, evaluate the pros and cons of a move from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone. What decision would you have made back then?