Museum of Industry gearing up for educational program ‘Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities’

John Brannen
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STELLARTON – February is African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia and this year's African Heritage Month theme is Rising Stars: Celebrating Our Youth.

Andrew Phillips, curator of education and public programming for the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry gives a demonstration of wool carding at the museum Wednesday. It’s one of several items that students will be able to experience as the museum ramps up its special programming for students celebrating and understanding African Heritage Month. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS

With the event in its 30th year, Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs Tony Ince said he was excited that this would be his first since being appointed minister.

“The province is proud to celebrate African Heritage Month and encourages all Nova Scotians to take the opportunity to celebrate the achievements and contributions of peoples of African descent in Nova Scotia," said Ince.

Ince, who was elected as MLA for Cole Harbour-Portland Valley in 2013, was previously a Department of Community Services counsellor, a sales representative and an actor.

“We are putting the focus on youth,” he said. “In my previous capacity, I worked with young people. I’m really excited to have this month dedicated to them.”

The Museum of Industry in Stellarton is also focusing on youth as African Heritage Month programming gears up. Andrew Phillips, curator of education and public programming for the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry, is organizing the ‘Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities’ program.

“This particular program has been running for over ten years,” said Phillips. “Basically, we want to shed light on the forgotten story, the story of the Black loyalists and their journey from Revolutionary America to Nova Scotia.”

According to Phillips, Nova Scotia became a destination for blacks who were free and loyal to the British Crown and white loyalists who had slaves in their possession. Places like Birchtown in Shelburne County became the largest settlement of Black Loyalists and the largest free settlement of Africans in North America in the 18th century.

“While the program fits nicely with the Grade 7 curriculum, we also have grades 3 through 6 taking part in the program.”

It begins with a survey of the origins of the black loyalists, their experience of slavery, and their arrival in Nova Scotia. Students are then divided into small groups. Most students will then examine real artifacts to draw conclusions about the daily life of black loyalists in the late 18th century. One group will create short skits to dramatize selected events in the lives of two black loyalists. The skits will then be performed in costume for the rest of the class. 

“We want the students to reflect and ask themselves, ‘Where did these black loyalists come from, why did they come here and why it matters today,’” said Phillips.

During each program, four students are selected to research and write a short skit illustrating the experiences of Boston and Violet King, two black loyalists who came to Nova Scotia in 1783. Phillips said that even if you arrived in Nova Scotia free from slavery, the life of a black loyalist was full of challenges.

“These loyalists experienced racism, violence and unfulfilled promises. Eventually, many left for the British colony of Sierra Leone.”

He noted that the program has been very successful and he expects to see between 150 and 200 students.

More information on African Heritage Month and a calendar of events can be found on the African Nova Scotian Affairs website,

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn

Organizations: Community Services, Nova Scotia Museum of Industry, African Nova Scotian Affairs

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Cole Harbour-Portland Valley, Stellarton Revolutionary America Birchtown Shelburne County North America Boston Sierra Leone

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