Free Blacks or Black Loyalists

All loyalists were also supposed to receive land grants. After favourable reports had been received about the lands on the St. John River, many loyalists moved from Nova Scotia to the St. John River, where many of the loyalist regiments had been disbanded. Many of the free Blacks, who attempted to obtain land grants in the Shelburne area, found they were not welcomed by the Whites, who wanted the lands which the surveyor wished to reserve for the Black people. As a result many of the free Blacks decided to move to New Brunswick. It is not certain how many actually came to New Brunswick, but in 1784 there were 222 free Blacks in various Black companies in Saint John. Other free Blacks came to join them later on.

The principal leader amongst the free Blacks was Thomas Peters, a former sergeant in the Black Pioneers. Peters had been a slave in North Carolina and had joined the British forces in 1776. He served the British faithfully throughout the war and was twice wounded. In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Peters became the spokesman for many of the free Blacks, and he was later the leader in organizing the return to Africa of many of them.

According to Lieutenant-Governor Carleton, small town lots were granted to the free Blacks in Saint John and a number stayed around the city as long as the government continued to issue food and provisions. By that time many White loyalists had been given land in Saint John and its vicinity or in other parts of the Province. In 1785 it was suggested that the free Blacks form themselves into companies. They were then to be given lots of 50 acres each in blocks to be surveyed for them. These blocks were to be located near Saint John. They were to be given additional land as soon as they proved able to develop it. No such restrictions were placed on any of the Whites who came to the province at that time. 

- W.A. Spray, The Blacks in New Brunswick.  Fredericton: Brunswick Press, 1972.  pp. 30-32.


W.A. Spray
c. 1785
New Brunswick, CANADA
© 1972, Human Relations Study Centre, St. Thomas University. All Rights Reserved.

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