Black Loyalist Migration
The Black Loyalists arrived in Nova Scotia between 1783 & 1785 as a result of the American Revolution. They were the largest group of people of African descent to come to Nova Scotia at any one time.
When Sir Henry Clinton issued the Phillipsburg proclamation, it stated that any Negro to desert the rebel cause would receive full protection, freedom, and land. It is estimated that many thousands of people of African descent joined the British and became British supporters.
When the Americans won the war and the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, British forces and supporter had to leave the new United States.
The British American Commission identified the Black people in New York who had joined the British before the surrender, and issued ‘certificates of freedom” signed by General Birch. Those who chose to emigrate were evacuated by ship. To make sure no one attempted to leave who did not have a certificate of freedom, the name of any Black person on board a vessel, whether slave, indentured servant, or free, was recorded along with the details of the enslavement, escape, and military service, in a document called the Book of Negroes.
Between April and November 1783,114 ships were inspected in New York harbor. An unknown number of ships left New York and other ports before and after these dates. Over 3,000 Black Loyalist were enrolled in the Book of Negroes, but perhaps as many as 5, 00 Black people left New York for Nova Scotia, the West Indies, Quebec, England, Germany and Belgium.
The Black Loyalist were landed at Port Roseway (now Shelburne) Birchtown, Port Mouton, Annapolis, Fort Cumberland, Halifax, and Saint John, New Brunswick.