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George, David (1742-1810)

David George, a slave and later a Baptistminister, was born in 1742 on a plantation in Virginia. His parents had been brought fromAfrica as slaves, and the cruel treatment they suffered prompted George to runaway to South Carolina where he hid for several years among Native Americans, firstas a servant to Creek Nation chief Blue Salt, then to Natchez chief King Jackwho sold him to a plantation in Silver Bluff, South Carolina.

Shortly after coming to Silver Bluff, Georgehad a religious conversion and, along with eight other slaves, was baptized by JoshuaPalmer, a white Baptist itinerant minister. On Palmers urging, David George took on responsibility for the SilverBluff Christians, which soon numbered more than thirty parishioners.  In 1775, they founded what is widelyconsidered the first black church in America, Silver BluffBaptist Church.

Three years later, the whole Silver Bluff congregationfled to British-occupied Savannah, Georgiawhere they gained their freedom.  Georgecontinued to preach and lead the church. When the British evacuated over 5,000 loyalistsfrom the city in 1782, George and his wife were among a handful of free blackswho made their way by sea for the 22-day voyage to Halifax, Nova Scotia.George became an itinerant minister there, attracting both black and whites tohis camp meetings and mass baptisms. He founded the first Baptist church in theprovince in Shelburne and a second church in Birchtown. 

In both instances the initial membersincluded both blacks and whites, causing community outrage that a black man wasbaptizing white residents. This, fuelled by resentment that the influx ofblacks had caused high unemployment rates there, led to the Shelburne Race Riotin 1784. George was beaten, his church torn down, and he and his family wereforced to flee to Birchtown. He regained a widespread following, establishingseven Baptist churches in Nova Scotiaand training a number of other black preachers.

The following decade, George became part ofa group of leaders organizing an exodus to Sierra

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