I have learned to pay attention to the mental twitches I receive occasionally. I’ve learned that to ignore them is to miss personal opportunities to grow as a human being. I had one of those experiences recently.
I glanced at an article titled, On This Day Thursday, May 12, 1785. I often skip over such moments, but for some reason, I didn’t. The first paragraph, in part, stated that Nova Scotia officials printed 50 handbills forbidding “Negro Dances and Negro Frolicks in the town of Shelburne.”
I digress for a moment. There was a short segment on Oprah Winfrey about Black cowboys in Alberta! Alberta of all places. Who knew? Not me. I needed to change my knowledge level. Over time I learned more. My wife and I travelled to the small Alberta town, Breton, to visit the museum telling the history of Black Homesteaders and ranchers.
Now back to my personal education. Here are a few of the highlights. Well over 3,000 blacks headed north after the American Civil War. Many settled near Shelburne. There were preachers, school teachers, skilled labourers, craftsmen and ship pilots. There were members of the Black Pioneers-the only official Black regiment on the British side during the War of Independence.
This was in addition to a wave of loyalist immigration numbering around 30,000. This strained the Nova Scotia resources.
The Black Loyalists were given smaller plots of land, fewer provisions, and lower wages. They were faced with targeted laws that penalized them for ‘offences’ such as dancing or loitering.
I continue. They were denied the right to vote and the right to be tried by jury. They were banned from gathering for non-religious purposes. Repeat offenders could have their homes seized.
I’ll end this litany with three specific examples.
One girl in Sherburne was sentenced to 350 lashes for stealing a couple of small items.
A man was whipped publicly all over town (20 lashes at each of 5 stops) and then indentured for five years.
Lastly, a man was sentenced to forced labour simply for eyeing a white man’s potato patch too hungrily.
Please give this a bit of a think. What are some specific events in our history that you’ve become aware of as an adult? During history classes or social studies, was there any indication indicating these such events? Does this bother you?
If this disconnect does bother you, what is one thing you can do to make a difference?
I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think below.
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