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Slavery and Freedom on a Canadian Shore: Africa's Children in Nova Scotia, 1750-2009

In the account below Nova Scotian historian Sharon Robart-Johnson describes the research and writing that culminated in her book, Africans Children: A History of Blacks in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Her book, the first history of Afro-Canadians in Nova Scotia, focuses on her community of Greenville, about two hundred miles southwest of Halifax.   

Five years of sorting through historical documents, funeral ledgers, and church records eventually led me to the writing of Africas Children. My journey began with a walk through the three cemeteries in the one-time all-black community of Greenville, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, looking at and running my gloved hands over the ground, hoping to find indentations of graves from long ago. I wanted to determine exactly how many people were buried in these cemeteries. A portion of the grounds of the Greenville Church Cemetery encircling the small Baptist Church is now used as a parking lot, making it impossible to locate all of the graves. Since the community of Greenville was first settled in 1820 and the earliest burial record dated only in 1891, an accurate number of burials cannot be determined. However, in the three cemeteries combined, to date more than two hundred people have been identified.

The personal information uncovered while identifying the deceased fuelled my need to know more. While perusing local historical documents, I found one that shattered every thought and idea I had of my home town—a quiet, peaceful haven free from ugliness of a troubled past. Not so. Several residents of Yarmouth County owned slaves.

From 1801 court documents comes the information that Jude and Diana, young slave girls, shared a room in the home of their owner, Samuel Andrews of Raynardton, Yarmouth County. Forced to exist on potatoes, fish, and coffee, on occasion Jude would steal bread and cheese from the family pantry and was whipped for her transgressions. Jude’s foray into the Andrew’s pantry on the night of  December 27, 1800 after all were asleep would be her last. Two of

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