The Book of Negroes

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Between the year 1763 and 1765, Americans pursued an ideology which was gaining independence from Britain and establishment of the United States of America. In which was initiated by thirteen American colonies of British America in Congress, with a modern liberal democracy; in a form of constitution (first of its kind).

In the course of the Revolutionary War, the American Revolutionary War also known as the Revolutionary War or the American War of Independence took place from April 19th, 1775 to September 3rd, 1783. It was a stepwise process to attain a self-governance from the British. It was aimed to object the British Parliament’s taxation policies and lack of colonial representation transparency.

Brigadier General Samuel Birch, then only British cavalry in America received a document containing information of 3,000 slaves who have escaped into Britain from their slaveholders in America. The receipt of the slaves was not just automatic, but was due to prior agreement of freedom in exchange for siding with the Americans in their revolution.

The escaped slaves were tagged Black Loyalists. On the receipt, the General Samuel Birch took their names, descriptions, and the specific place the slaves evacuated to in April, 1783. This ignited “The Book of Negroes” and also a certificate of freedom was issued to the slaves. Food, shelter and evacuation to different places (ranging from Nova Scotia to islands in the Western Indies) were also provided to them.

American slaveholders who wanted to take possession of their human property who have fled to the Britain, and whom they believed were promised to be repatriated by the Paris Peace Treaty of November 1782, which recognized American independence, and officially ended the fighting between British and American forces.

Sir Guy Carlton, a British commander who was in charge of negotiations, vowed he would not surrender human property declaring it as “A dishonorable violation of public faith”. In turn, Samuel Jones, then comptroller for New York States signed a document on behalf of the United States in pursuit of independence as a compensation for the unfulfilled promise.

Briefly, ‘The Book of Negroes’ as stated was a document containing details concerning the Black Loyalists such as country of origin, slavery status, destination after freedom and description. It was a 200-page document compiled by General Samuel Birch and has two versions now.

The British version rests in the National Archives, Kew, London. The American version is held by the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. The book has also won The Commonwealth writer’s prize of 2018, which is mind-blowing. It also has a miniseries under the same name adapted by Canadian director Clement Virgo.

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