Our Children Free and Happy: Letters from Black Settlers in Africa in the 1790s

Our Children Free and Happy: Letters from Black Settlers in Africa in the 1790s

Our Children Free and Happy: Letters from Black Settlers in Africa in the 1790s

Our Children Free and Happy: Letters from Black Settlers in Africa in the 1790s

Synopsis

This is a unique group of previously unpublished letters which are held in manuscript form by the British Library, the Library of the University of Illinois, Chicago, and the Public Record Office, London. The letters were written by black settlers who had migrated from North America to Sierra Leone. They record an attempt by self-liberated ex-slaves to obtain political and land rights, which they felt had been unjustly denied them, using their literacy in English as a tool. Christopher Fyfe's introduction explains the historical backgroundto the period. An important supplementary essay by Professor Charles Jones examines the linguistic significance of the letters, comparing them with native English letters of the period.

Excerpt

The story of the Nova Scotian settlers in Sierra Leone has been told many times. Two comprehensive studies appeared in 1976: James Walker The Black Loyalists, and Ellen Gibson Wilson's The Loyal Blacks. The Nova Scotian settlers also figure in some detail in the historical works listed in the Selected Bibliography (on page 105), and Yema Lucilda Hunter has told their story with great insight in her novel Road to Freedom. Bearing this in mind I have contributed only a brief introduction, setting out the story for those unfamiliar with it, without incorporating documentary references. Those interested in studying it further can do so from the books listed in the Selected Bibliography.

The value of this publication has been greatly enhanced by the inclusion of a contribution by Professor Charles Jones of the University of Edinburgh on the style of English used by the settlers.

I am grateful to Ellen Gibson Wilson for generously lending me photocopies of some of the documents to work from. I must also record my thanks to the owners of the originals for permission to reproduce them -- to the British Library (Manuscript Collections), the Special Collections (Sierra Leone Collection) of the University Library, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Public Record Office. But above all I thank my dear old friend Paul Edwards who suggested to me that the Nova Scotian letters be published as a volume in his Early Black Writers series and encouraged and helped me to edit them.

In the documents the settlers tell their story themselves in their own words. Across two centuries we hear members of a self-liberated black community defending their rights and expressing their feelings in their own way. They have been . . .

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