________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 27. . . .March 20, 2015


Birchtown and the Black Loyalists.

Wanda Lauren Taylor.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2014.
73 pp., trade pbk., $15.95.
ISBN 978-1-77108-166-5.

Subject Headings:
Blacks-Nova Scotia-Birchtown-History-Juvenile literature.
Birchtown (N.S.)-History-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Daphne Hamilton Nagorsen.

*** /4



Even after losing the war, Britain kept its promise and gave Certificates of Freedom to Black Loyalists in New York City. In 1783 over 20,000 Loyalists boarded ships leaving New York. About 3,500 were Black Loyalists or indentured servants. Some came along as the property of White Loyalists, but most were former slaves who had earned their freedom by fighting in the war or supporting British soldiers. Some Black Loyalists were headed to places like England and Florida, but most of them were headed north, to Nova Scotia. They were looking forward to enjoying their freedom. They had high hopes for themselves and their families in their new home.

Evacuation Day was the beginning of a new chapter for the Black Loyalists, and the end of a gloomy past. But what the Black Loyalists thought was a dream would end up being more like a nightmare for many of them.


Birchtown and the Black Loyalists is an overview of the early history of Birchtown in Nova Scotia and the Black Loyalists who founded Birchtown and the problems they faced. The book is well organized, easy to read, with good resources for further research by interested young readers. The four sections introduce readers to the Black Loyalists, who they were and how they ended up in Nova Scotia. How Blacks arrived in North America through the slave trade is introduced, along with a brief overview of what life was like for slaves in America. The trials and problems faced by Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia and elsewhere are introduced, and then Wanda Lauren Taylor shifts the focus to modern efforts to retrace the history of Birchtown and the Black Loyalists.

     Wanda Lauren Taylor does an excellent job of conveying the situation of the Black Loyalists and how they were treated very differently from the White Loyalists. The broken promises, the prejudice and the disappointments are clearly conveyed, along with the determination of the Black Loyalists to have a future, no matter what they faced. The section on the slave trade provides a good point of comparison for how Blacks were treated all over North America, as well as giving some very useful background for the Black Loyalists.

     There is a rather sudden jump in the history covered from 1792 and many Black Loyalists leaving to found Freetown in Sierra Leone to the present day. Some more information on the Black Loyalists who remained in Nova Scotia and how they fared would have enhanced Birchtown, especially for readers outside Nova Scotia or those unfamiliar with the history of the Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia. The main events are covered in the “Birchtown Timeline” at the end of the book, but more details would have been useful.

     The “Recommended Reading” section has a number of age appropriate resources, but not all the resources will contain much information specifically on Birchtown. However, the resources will provide a good overview of Black Canadian history for interested readers.

     Birchtown and the Black Loyalists is well written look at a small part of the history of Black Loyalists in Canada, and it will be an excellent resource on this topic.


Daphne Hamilton Nagorsen is a graduate of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - March 20, 2015.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive