Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Harvey Amani Whitfield
Born in Africa, shipped to the West Indies, enslaved in the American colonies, and promised freedom in Colonial Canada: this well-known narrative traces a journey from tropical climates to northern temperate zones, from slavery to freedom. However, in the late eighteenth century, thousands of Black people experienced a journey from slavery in the American and West Indian colonies to continued enslavement in the Maritimes (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island). Their stories challenge our understanding of the more familiar narrative that traces the lives of free Black Loyalists who went from slavery to freedom in the Atlantic world as a result of the opportunities and obstacles presented by the American Revolution. In the midst of Black people’s physical migrations, daily commercial exchanges for Caribbean slave-produced products characterized the Maritime economy. These historical facts shatter the illusion that the region was a bastion against enslavement and the falsehood that they were far-removed from slavery in the British Atlantic world. Slavery and its consequences, products, and threats were important parts of the region’s history.
Grounded in documentation from the Maritimes, this thesis investigates how slavery bound the Maritimes to the West Indies after the American Revolution and into the early nineteenth century through economic and biographical connections. Investigation of these economic ties (including trade activity, the presence and use of slave-produced products from the Caribbean in the Maritimes, and noncommercial pecuniary interests) and biographical connections (through enslaved people’s migrations, the re-enslavement of free Black Loyalists, and Black people’s attitudes about the West Indies) allow us to better our understanding of these regions, their place within the British Atlantic, and how they were inextricably bound to slavery. It also enables us to recover the perspectives of the inhabitants and their own understandings of life, death, Loyalism, resistance, slavery, and freedom in an increasingly connected empire.
Number of Pages
Chute, Sarah Elizabeth, "Bound to Slavery: Economic and Biographical Connections to Atlantic Slavery between the Maritimes and West Indies after 1783" (2021). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 1359.