The Sierra Leone Settlers (Black Loyalists) #BlackHistoryMonth #Day26

The Nova Scotian Settlers or Sierra Leone Settlers, (also known as the Nova Scotians or more commonly as The ‘Settlers) were African Americans who migrated from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone and founded the settlement of Freetown and the second colony of Sierra Leone on March 11, 1792. The majority of these black immigrants were among 3000 former slaves and free blacks known as Black Loyalists who sought refuge with the British during the American Revolutionary WarThe Nova Scotian settlers were jointly led by former soldier Thomas Peters and John Clarkson, an English abolitionist and first governor of Freetown, who became a respected friend and patron of the Nova Scotian settlers.

Although the Maroons and other transatlantic immigrants contributed toward the development of Freetown, the Nova Scotian Settlers were the single greatest Western black influence on the making of Freetown, Sierra Leone and their legacy remains there till this day. For most of the 19th century the Settlers resided in Settler Town; today their descendants are found among the Sierra Leone Creole people. The Nova Scotian settlers have been the subject of many social science books which have examined how the Nova Scotians brought ‘America’ to Africa as the founders of the first permanent ex-slave colony in West Africa which proved quite influential throughout the region.

From 1792 to the late 19th century the Settlers remained a distinct ethnic group within Sierra Leone. Some loan words in the Krio language and the “bod oses” of their modern day descendants, the Creoles, are considered to be one of the cultural imprints still present in Creole culture that the Settlers brought from America. 

Upon arrival in Nova Scotia, the Black Loyalist settlers faced many difficulties. They received less land, fewer provisions and were paid lower wages than White Loyalists. Some fell into debt and had to sign terms of indentured servitude which resembled their former enslavement in America. In 1792, approximately 1,192 Black Nova Scotian settlers left Halifax, Nova Scotia and immigrated to Sierra Leone. However the majority of free blacks did remain in Nova Scotia where their descendants today comprise the Black Nova Scotians, one of the oldest communities of Black Canadians.The Nova Scotian settlers to Sierra Leone spoke Gullah and early forms of African American Vernacular English. The Nova Scotians were the only mass group of black Americans to immigrate to Sierra Leone under the auspices of the Sierra Leone Company; it was de factopolicy that because of the democratic and ‘American’ ideals of the Nova Scotians no other American blacks would be allowed to immigrate in large groups to Sierra Leone.

Fifteen ships, the first fleet to return of Free blacks to Africa, left Halifax Harbour on January 15, 1792 and arrived in Sierra Leone between February 28-March 9, 1792. 

Upon reaching Sierra Leone in 1792, the Nova Scotians founded and established Free Town based upon the grid of a North American colonial town plan, which caused tensions when the Nova Scotians found the best waterfront land was reserved for the Sierra Leone Company.After the Maroonsimmigrated, the Settler part of Freetown was known as Settler Town.

The town was in close proximity to Cline Townor then, Granville Town. Eighty percent of Nova Scotians lived on five streets: Rawdon, Wilberforce, Howe, East, and Charlotte street. Seventy percent of Maroons lived on five streets: Glouchester, George, Trelawney, Walpole, and Westmoreland street. The main Nova Scotian churches were in Settler Town; Rawdon Street Methodist Church was one of the main churches Methodist churches. The modern day Ebenezer Methodist Church is an offshoot of Rawdon Methodist; it was founded by wealthy Nova Scotians. Many Settler families were forced to sell their land because of debt; families such as the Balls, the Burdens, the Chambers, the Dixons, the Georges (descendants of David George), the Keelings, the Leighs, the Moores, the Peters (descendants of Thomas Peters or Stephen Peters), the Prestons, the Snowballs, the Staffords, the Turners, the Willoughsby, the Zizers, the Williams, and the Goodings. Some descendants of James Wise and other settlers were able to keep their land in Settler Town.

During the French war with Britain which had been declared in 1793, the French attacked and burned Freetown. The Settlers offered the only resistance to the French during this time period. The settlers assured the French they were “Americans from North America” and were friends of the French. Despite showing they were Americans, the French still carried off two Nova Scotian boys as slaves.

Because of friction between the independent Nova Scotia settlers and British authorities, no further resettlement of Freed American slaves followed. When the Elizabeth from New York arrived with 82 black Americans, the British did not permit them to land or settle in Freetown. These black Americans, led by Daniel Coker, were offered land to settle in Sherbro by John Kizell an African-born Nova Scotian settler. After the terrible conditions for the settlers at Sherbro, they were moved to land in the Grain Coast; the black Americans who moved there in 1820 were the first settlers of what would be Liberia. In the War of 1812, the British considered Sierra Leone as a home for the Black Refugees, another generations of Africans who escaped American slavery, but chose to settle them in Nova Scotia and the West Indies instead. The Nova Scotians in the 1830s and 40s would be faced with large-scale settlement of Africans freed from slave ships by the British Royal Navy‘s anti-slave trade campaign.


Paul Cuffe (Kofi) #BlackHistoryMonth #Day24

IMG_5403 Paul Cuffee or Paul Cuffe (January 17, 1759 – September 9, 1817) was a Quaker businessman, sea captain, patriot, and abolitionist. He was of Aquinnah Wampanoag and West African Ashanti descent and helped colonize Sierra Leone. Cuffe built a lucrative shipping empire and established the first racially integrated school in Westport, Massachusetts.

A devout Christian, Cuffee often preached and spoke at the Sunday services at the multi-racial Society of Friends meeting house in Westport, Massachusetts. In 1813, he donated most of the money to build a new meeting house. He became involved in the British effort to resettle freed slaves, many of whom had moved from the US to Nova Scotia after the American Revolution, to the fledgling colony of Sierra Leone. Cuffe helped establish The Friendly Society of Sierra Leone, which provided financial support for the colony.

The future mariner Paul Cuffee was born on January 17, 1759, during the French and Indian War, on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts. He was the youngest son of Kofi Slocum and Ruth Moses. Paul’s father, Kofi, was a member of the Akan ethnic group’s Ashanti tribe, from Ghana, Africa. Kofi had been captured at age ten and brought as a slave to the British colony of Massachusetts. His owner, John Slocum, could not reconcile slave ownership with his own Quaker values and gave Kofi his freedom in the mid-1740s. Kofi took the name Cuffee Slocum and, in 1746, he married Ruth Moses. Ruth was a Native American member of the Wampanoag Nation on Martha’s Vineyard.

At the age of 21, Cuffe refused to pay taxes because free blacks did not have the right to vote. In 1780, he petitioned the council of Bristol County, Massachusetts to end such taxation without representation. The petition was denied, but his suit was one of the influences that led the Legislature in 1783 to grant voting rights to all free male citizens of the state. Cuffe finally made enough money to purchase another ship and hired crew. He gradually built up capital and expanded his ownership to a fleet of ships. After using open boats, he commissioned the 14- or 15-ton closed-deck boat Box Iron, then an 18- to 20-ton schooner. Cuffe married Alice Pequit on February 25, 1783. Like Cuffe’s mother, Pequit was also Wampanoag. The couple settled in Westport, Massachusetts, where they raised their seven children.

In February 1799 he paid $3,500 for 140 acres (0.57 km2) of waterfront property in Westport. By 1800 he had enough capital to purchase a half-interest in the 162-ton barque Hero. By the first years of the nineteenth century Paul Cuffe was one of the most wealthy – if not the most wealthy – African American and Native American in the United States. His largest ship, the 268-ton Alpha, was built in 1806, along with his favorite ship of all, the 109-ton brig Traveller. Most Englishmen and Anglo-Americans in his day felt that people of African descent were inferior to Europeans, even in the predominantly Calvinist and Quaker New England. Although slavery continued, prominent men like Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison believed the emigration of Blacks to colonies outside the United States was the easiest and most realistic solution to the race problem in America.

IMG_54041732 map of Sierra Leone and the coast of Guinea

Attempts by Europeans and Americans to colonize Blacks in other parts of the world had failed, including the British attempt to colonize Sierra Leone. Beginning in 1787, the Sierra Leone Company sponsored 400 people who departed from Great Britain for Sierra Leone. The colony struggled to establish a working economy and develop a government that could survive against outside pressures. After the financial collapse of the Sierra Leone Company, a second group, the newly created African Institution offered migration to freed slaves who had previously settled in Nova Scotia and London after the American Revolution. The African Institution’s London sponsors hoped to gain an economic return while foster the “civilizing” trades of educated Blacks.

Although colonizing Sierra Leone was difficult, Cuffe believed it was a viable option for Blacks and threw his support behind the movement. Paul Cuffe wrote,

“I have for these many years past felt a lively interest in their behalf, wishing that the inhabitants of the colony might become established in truth, and thereby be instrumental in its promotion amongst our African brethren.”

From March 1807 on, Cuffe was encouraged by members of the African Institution in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York to be involved in helping out the fledgling efforts to improve Sierra Leone. Cuffe mulled over the logistics and chances of success for the movement before deciding in 1809 to join the project. On December 27, 1810, he left Philadelphia on his first expedition to Sierra Leone. In 1816, Cuffe envisioned a mass emigration plan for African Americans, both to Sierra Leone and possibly to newly freed Haiti. As 1817 began, Paul Cuffe’s health deteriorated. He never returned to Africa. He died on September 7, 1817. His final words were “Let me pass quietly away.” Cuffe left an estate with an estimated value of almost $20,000. He is buried in the graveyard of the Westport Friends Meetinghouse.

Morning Uplift

When all our cars are filled with snow and salt looking dirty. How marvelous it looks in our eyes to see a freshly washed car with the body wax and armorial on your tires. Well that’s how God’s people stand out amongst the world. But my question to the Lord’s people is how do we achieve this goal? Well the Apostle Paul has a word for us, and the bible reads: Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky (‭Philippians‬ ‭2‬:‭14-15‬ NIV)

Thomas Peters #BlackHistoryMonth #Day20

IMG_5383 Thomas Peters (also known as Thomas Potters) (25 June 1738 in Nigeria – 1792 in Freetown, Sierra Leone) was one of the Black Loyalists Founding Fathers of Sierra Leone. Peters, along with David George, Moses Wilkinson, Cato Perkins, and Joseph Leonard, were influential blacks who recruited African settlers in Nova Scotia for colonisation of Sierra Leone. Peters himself was a former African-American slave who fled North Carolina with the British during the American Revolutionary War and later ended up as a leader in Freetown. Thomas Peters has been called the first African-American hero. Peters, like Elijah Johnson and Joseph Jenkins Roberts of Liberia, is considered the African-American founding father of a nation.

Thomas Peters was born in Nigeria, and was an ethnic Yoruba of the Egba people clan. In 1760, a twenty-two-year-old Thomas Peters was captured by slave traders and sold as a slave to Colonial America on a French ship, the Henri Quatre. Upon arrival in North America, Peters was sold to a French owner in French Louisiana. Peters tried to escape three times before being sold to an Englishman or Scotsman in one of the Southern Colonies and it is Campbell, an immigrant Scotsman, who had settled on the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, North Carolina.

In 1776, Peters fled his owner’s flour mill near Wilmington at the start of the American Revolutionary War and joined the Black Pioneers, a Black Loyalist unit made up of runaway African-American slaves. The British had previously promised freedom in exchange for supporting the war effort against the colonies that formed the new United States. After the war Peters and other former African-American slaves were taken by the British to Nova Scotia with Loyalists, where they stayed from 1783 to 1791. Initially after being evacuated from New York, Thomas Peters’ Loyalist ship had been blown off course and the crew temporarily settled in Bermuda. Eventually Thomas Peters and his family settled in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

Peters became disheartened with what he saw as broken promises of land by the British government and he decided to travel to England to demand the land promised to him and others. Peters gathered the signatures and marks of African-American settlers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick before getting funds to travel to London (with the risk of being re-enslaved) and convince the Government to settle the blacks in Nova Scotia elsewhere. In 1791, Peters went to London, where he helped convince the Royal government (with the help of Granville Sharp) to allow them to settle a new colony in Sierra Leone that was to be Freetown, Sierra Leone.

After convincing over 1,100 of the 3,500 American blacks to return to Africa, in 1792 they arrived at St. George Bay Harbor. Legend has it that Thomas Peters led the newly named Nova Scotians ashore singing an old Christian hymn (though most likely it was other more influential religious leaders). Peters soon became at odds with the newly established Governor John Clarkson and he called himself the “Speaker General” of the Annapolis Royal Nova Scotia settlers. Eventually the overwhelming majority of Nova Scotians chose John Clarkson as their true leader and Peters became disheartened. Soon after Peters died of malaria in Freetown during the first rainy season in 1792.

Peters died leaving a wife and seven children. A number of Krios can claim descent from Thomas Peters and he is considered by most to be a “George Washington” figure of Freetown, Sierra Leone. His descendants are members of the Creole ethnic group that lives predominantly in Freetown, Sierra Leone. During 1999 Peters was honoured by the Sierra Leone government by being included in a movie celebrating the country’s national heroes. In 2001 it was suggested that Percival Street (specifically Settler Town, Sierra Leone, where Peter’s Nova Scotians settled) in Freetown was to be renamed in his honour, but this has yet to be done.

The Slave Trade Act 1807 #BlackHistoryMonth #Day19

IMG_5376 47 Geo 3 Sess 1 c 36, sometimes called the Slave Trade Act, the Slave Trade Act 1807 or the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807, was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed on 25 March 1807, with the title of “An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade”. The original act is in the Parliamentary Archives. The act abolished the slave trade in the British Empire, in particular the Atlantic slave trade, and also encouraged British action to press other European states to abolish their slave trades, but it did not abolish slavery itself. Many of the Bill’s supporters thought the Act would lead to the death of slavery, but it was not until 26 years later that slavery itself was actually abolished. Slavery on English soil was unsupported in English law and that position was confirmed in Somersett’s Case in 1772, but it remained legal in most of the British Empire until the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

The Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was formed in 1787 by a group of Evangelical English Protestants allied with Quakers, to unite in their shared opposition to slavery and the slave trade. The Quakers had long viewed slavery as immoral, a blight upon humanity. By 1807 the abolitionist groups had a very sizable faction of like-minded members in the British Parliament. At their height they controlled 35–40 seats. Known as the “Saints”, the alliance was led by the best known of the anti-slave trade campaigners, William Wilberforce, who had taken on the cause of abolition in 1787 after having read the evidence that Thomas Clarkson had amassed against the trade. These dedicated Parliamentarians had access to the legal draughtsmanship of James Stephen, Wilberforce’s brother-in-law. They often saw their personal battle against slavery as a divinely ordained crusade. On Sunday, 28 October 1787, Wilberforce wrote in his diary: “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”

Their numbers were magnified by the precarious position of the government under Lord Grenville, whose short term as Prime Minister was known as the Ministry of All the Talents. Grenville himself led the fight to pass the Bill in the House of Lords, while in the Commons the Bill was led by the Foreign Secretary, Charles James Fox, who died before it finally received Royal Assent. Other events also played a part; the Act of Union brought 100 Irish MPs into Parliament, most of whom supported abolition. The Bill was first introduced to Parliament in January 1807. It went to the House of Commons on 10 February 1807. On 23 February 1807, twenty years after he first began his crusade, Wilberforce and his team were rewarded with victory. By an overwhelming 283 votes for to 16 against, the motion to abolish the Atlantic slave trade was carried in the House of Commons. The debate lasted ten hours and the House voted in favour of the Bill. The Bill received Royal Assent on 25 March 1807.

The Act created fines for captains who continued with the trade. These fines could be up to £100 per slave found on a ship. Captains would sometimes dump slaves overboard when they saw Navy ships coming in order to avoid these fines.

The Royal Navy, which then controlled the world’s seas, established the West Africa Squadron in 1808 to patrol the coast of West Africa, and between 1808 and 1860 they seized approximately 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard. The Royal Navy declared that ships transporting slaves were the same as pirates. Action was also taken against African leaders who refused to agree to British treaties to outlaw the trade, for example against “the usurping King of Lagos”, who was deposed in 1851. Anti-slavery treaties were signed with over 50 African rulers.


John Harold Johnson #BlackHistoryMonth #Day18

IMG_5362 John Harold Johnson (January 19, 1918 – August 8, 2005) was an American businessman and publisher. He was the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company. In 1982, he became the first African American to appear on the Forbes 400.

Johnson was born in rural Arkansas City, Arkansas, the grandson of slaves. When he was eight years old, his father died in a sawmill accident and Johnson was raised by his mother and stepfather. He attended an overcrowded and segregated elementary school. Such was his love of learning, he repeated the eighth grade rather than discontinue his education, as there was no public high school for African Americans in his community. The family moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1933 to try to find work and for Johnson to continue his education. Johnson entered all-black DuSable High School while his mother and stepfather scoured the city for jobs during the day. To support themselves, the family applied for welfare, which they received for two years until Johnson’s stepfather was finally able to obtain a position with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Johnson himself secured a job with the National Youth Administration (NYA).

At DuSable High School his classmates included Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx and future entrepreneur William Abernathy. After he graduated in 1936, he was offered a tuition scholarship to the University of Chicago, but he thought he would have to decline it, because he could not figure out a way to pay for expenses other than tuition. Because of his achievements in high school, Johnson was invited to speak at a dinner held by the Urban League. When Harry Pace, president of the Supreme Life Insurance Company, heard Johnson’s speech, he was so impressed with the young man that he offered Johnson a job so that he would be able to use the scholarship. His work at Supreme Life also gave him the opportunity to see the day-to-day operations of a business owned by an African American and fostered his dream of starting a business of his own.

Once the idea of The Negro Digest occurred to him, it began to seem like a “black gold mine”, Johnson stated in his autobiography Succeeding against the Odds. He remained enthusiastic even though he was discouraged on all sides from doing so. Only his mother, a woman with biblical faith and deep religious convictions, as well as a powerful belief in her son, supported his vision and allowed him to use her furniture as collateral for a $500 loan. He used this loan to publish the first edition of Negro Digest in 1942.

Although Negro Digest/Black World achieved some success and at its height had a circulation of more than 100,000, it was dwarfed by Johnson’s subsequent publication, Ebony, which was so popular that its initial run of 25,000 copies easily sold out. The articles in Ebony, which were designed to look like those in Life or Look magazines, emphasized the achievements of successful African Americans. Photo essays about current events and articles about race relations were also included in the magazine. Initially focused on the rich and famous in the African-American community, Johnson expanded the reporting to include issues such as “the white problem in America”, African-American militancy, crimes by African Americans against African Americans, civil rights legislation, freedom rides and marches, and other aspects of segregation and discrimination. Professional historians were recruited for the magazine’s staff so that the contributions of African Americans to the history of the United States could be adequately documented. African-American models were used in the magazine’s advertisements and a conscious effort was made to portray positive aspects of African-American life and culture. Everything in the magazine was addressed to the African-American consumer. Johnson maintained that Ebony′s success was due to the positive image of African Americans that it offered.

In 1951, Johnson launched Tan (a “true confessions”-type magazine). In 1951, Jet, a weekly news digest, began. Later publications included African American Stars and Ebony Jr., a children’s magazine. Although all of the magazines achieved a measure of success, none was able to compete with Ebony, which in its 40th year of publication had a circulation of 2,300,000 and was the primary reason that Johnson was considered one of the 400 richest individuals in the United States.

Other business interests
Johnson expanded his business interests to areas other than his magazines. He became chairperson and chief executive officer of the Supreme Life Insurance Company. He developed a line of cosmetics, purchased three radio stations, started a book publishing company, and a television production company, and served on the board of directors of several major businesses, including the Greyhound Corporation.

On August 8, 2005, Johnson died of congestive heart failure. People who remembered his career considered his decision to publish Emmett Till’s open casket photograph his greatest moment. Michigan congressman Charles Diggs recalled that given the emotion the image stimulated, it was “probably one of the greatest media products in the last 40 or 50 years”. He was buried at Oak Woods Cemetery, in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side.

Dorothy Irene Height #BlackHistoryMonth #Day17

IMG_5355 Dorothy Irene Height (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010) an American administrator and educator, was a civil rights and women’s rights activist specifically focused on the issues of African-American women, including unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness. She was the president of the National Councilof Negro Women for forty years and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

Dorothy Height was born in Richmond, Virginia. During childhood, she moved with her family to Rankin, Pennsylvania, a steel town in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, where she graduated from Rankin High School in 1929. Height received a scholarship from the Elks, which helped her to attend college. She was admitted to Barnard College in 1929, but upon arrival was denied entrance because the school had an unwritten policy of admitting only two black students per year. She enrolled instead at New York University, earning an undergraduate degree in 1932 and a master’s degree in educational psychology the following year. She pursued further postgraduate work at Columbia University and the New York School of Social Work (the predecessor of the Columbia University School of Social Work).

IMG_5356Dorothy Height with Eleanor Roosevelt, 1960

At the age of 25, she began a career as a civil rights activist, joining the National Council of Negro Women. She fought for equal rights for both African Americans and women. In 1944 she joined the national staff of the YWCA. She was also an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority throughout her life, developing leadership training programs and ecumenical education programs. She served as national president of the sorority from 1946 to 1957.In 1957, Height was named president of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held until 1997. During the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, she organized “Wednesdays in Mississippi,” which brought together black and white women from the North and South to create a dialogue of understanding. Height was also a founding member of the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership. In his autobiography, civil rights leader James Farmer described Height as one of the “Big Six” of the civil rights movement, but noted that her role was frequently ignored by the press due to sexism.

In 1990, Height, along with 15 other African Americans, formed the African-American Women for Reproductive Freedom. Height was recognized by Barnard for her achievements as an honorary alumna during the college’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 2004. On March 25, 2010, Height was admitted to Howard University Hospital in Washington D.C. for unspecified reasons. She died three weeks later, on April 20, 2010, at the age of 98. Her funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on April 29, 2010 was attended by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as many other dignitaries and notable people. She was later interred at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Colmar Manor, Maryland.