The rocky, Atlantic-whipped coast of Nova Scotia seems an unlikely spot to uncover black history. But first archeologists and now genealogists are digging into the past of Birchtown, a tiny village near the southeast tip of the Canadian province, and retrieving the secrets of what was once the largest settlement of free blacks outside of Africa. Recently researchers at the Nova Scotia Museum
won a $114,000 grant to research black history there.
During the American Revolution, the British offered freedom and land to black loyalists who would cross over to their side. In 1783, 3,500 black loyalists were issued "Birch Certificates" by British General Samuel Birch, entitling them to escape from New York City to Nova Scotia. Most had fled slavery in the southern colonies, with 500 from South Carolina alone.