The Black Loyalists were the approximately 3,000 African American supporters of the British during the American Revolution who were repatriated to British Canada at the end of the conflict. Most settled in Nova Scotia and established what would be for decades, the largest concentration of black residents in Canada and what was at the time the largest settlement of free blacks outside Africa.
The Black Loyalists who fought for Great Britain believed they were fighting not only for their own freedom, but for the ultimate abolition of slavery in North America. The British commitment to the these loyalists began when Virginia"s Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, issued a proclamation promising freedom to all Virginia slaves who supported the British and the white Loyalist allies.
Over the seven years of the American Revolution these men made an immense contribution to the British war effort. The black pioneers were the most famous of the Black Loyalist military units. A pioneer was a soldier whose main task was to provide engineering duties in camp and combat. Divided into a number of different corps attached to larger armies, they served as scouts, raiders, and what we would call today military engineers. While generally not a fighting unit, they would have often been called to work under heavy fire and the most dangerous conditions.
As the British began preparations for their withdrawal from the American colonies at the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, they sought land on which to settle the white and Black Loyalists who were displaced by the war. Their search led them to the largely unoccupied, unsettled province of Nova Scotia in Canada.
The first Black Loyalists—men, their wives and children--arrived in Halifax and other Maritime ports in the summer of 1783. Since they had fought for the British Crown and were promised the same rights, privileges and freedom that their white counterparts were to receive, they expected land and to be incorporated into the provincial political structure. They were, however,