Peters, Thomas

Thomas Peters, black community leader (b c 1738; d at Freetown, Sierra Leone, 25 June 1792). During the American Revolution, Britain promised freedom and equality to rebel-owned slaves who joined the LOYALIST cause. Among the thousands to respond, Peters joined the Black Pioneers and gained the rank of sergeant. Following the British defeat, some 3500 black Loyalists were transported to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. When, through disorganization and discrimination, these promises of equality remained unfulfilled, Peters was selected to present the black case before the Crown. He travelled to London in 1790 with petitions outlining the blacks' grievances, including denial of the vote, trial by jury and equitable land grants.

In London Peters met the Sierra Leone Co, whose colony for freed slaves in West Africa was seeking black settlers. He returned to North America with a government-financed scheme offering free land and independence in Sierra Leone. In January 1792 almost 1200 blacks sailed from Halifax to Africa, where they founded Freetown. Meanwhile, administrative reforms turned Lt John Clarkson, the official agent for the migration, into a colonial governor with an appointed white council. Peters led an opposition movement against the new system, but died of "the fever" before achieving concrete results. Surviving members of the migration went on to develop Freetown as a commercial and political capital, where their descendants are still known as "Nova Scotians" and Thomas Peters is remembered as a courageous pioneer and leader.