Events & Dates of Note

Special Dates to Remember

Sunday, April 27, 2015 – Annual General Meeting
2:00pm at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church (Water Street, Peterborough)
Jean Rae Baxter will be our guest speaker.

Freedom Bound: The Black Loyalists’ Story

Jean Rae Baxter's presentation is based on her research for the novel Freedom Bound, which depicts the experience of the so-called Black Loyalists who gained their freedom through the support they gave to the British during the American Revolution. Their passport to freedom was the "General Birch Certificate," awarded escaped slaves who served the British military in any capacity for a period of at least one year.

Britain introduced the General Birch Certificate as a stratagem for upsetting the economy of the rebelling Southern Colonies. It was a brilliant idea, but it was introduced without sufficient forethought to its implications.

Thousands of runaway slaves flocked behind British lines. Few knew which side their owner was on. All they heard was “Freedom.” The problem was, only slaves owned by Rebels qualified for the certificate. If the owner was a Loyalist, his slaves were sent right back to him.

To introduce a further complication, during the British occupation of Charleston (1780-1782) General Sir Henry Clinton, the British Commander in Chief, issued a proclamation offering full restoration of property and civil rights to all Rebels who would swear allegiance to King George II. In Charleston alone, more than two thousand accepted the offer. “Now that we've returned to our allegiance,” they said, “kindly give us back our slaves.” But that was not possible; the genie was out of the bottle.

This situation forms part of the background for Baxter's presentation that focuses upon the institution of slavery during the period of the American Revolution and on what awaited the Black Loyalists after their freedom was won. Their experience in Nova Scotia and their eventual resettlement in Sierra Leone are part of the story.