THE LOYAL BLACKS by Ellen Gibson Wilson


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In 1786, four hundred Londoners left for the rich but disease-ridden port of Sierra Leone to start a West African settlement. Most of them were black; they were followed six years later by a thousand more colonizers, who had relocated in Canada as slaves freed by the British during the War of Independence. The Sierra Leone settlement was governed by an English trading company, with paternalistic accommodations as well as a persistent effort to extract taxes from the subsistence farmers and show the profitability of free black labor. Wilson gives an extraordinarily abundant sense of the ex-slaves' life in both Canada and Africa. They were sturdily American in their protests against unjust authority, and they did not adopt tribal or pre-Christian institutions but applied themselves to transplanting apple trees and importing cheese. The intrigues of the Canadian whites (who disliked losing cheap labor), the City financiers, and the on-the-spot administrators of the settlement are reconstructed with equal scholarship and energy. An unusually textured account of one episode in a key period in both black and white North American history.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1976
Publisher: Putnam