Background on the Refugees of 1815

Remarks on the Background on the Refugees of 1815

The 371 escaped or liberated American slaves who arrived on the St. John waterfront 200 years ago today were ending one epic journey and beginning another. The ex-slaves who came from the Georgia Sea Islands, for example, had sailed close to 4,000 kilometres, stopping at Bermuda and Nova Scotia along the way.

Arriving three decades after the Black Loyalists, they were the second major influx of Blacks into New Brunswick since its founding in 1784. And they were the last major group of Blacks to enter the colony before Confederation.

Although they faced hardship such as disease and struggles such over land grants, political rights and employment, the Refugees persevered, and founded communities such as Willow Grove and Ontabog.

The NB Black History Society hopes to more fully research the history of the Refugees, to which this day is dedicated. Theirs is an epic story reaching back to Georgia, Maryland and Virginia, and ultimately, Africa. My remarks will cover the back ground on this important movement of newly-freed peoples into our province.

The Refugees were a product of the War of 1812. When the American President declared war on Great Britain in 1812, the United States confidently expected to invade and retain the British colony of Upper Canada.