Black History Month in Canada

Black History Month in Canada honours the legacy of black Canadians, past and present.

This year, Black History Month in Canada celebrates the contributions of black soldiers who fought in the war of 1812.

On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain. Britain at the time were also at war with France and their leader Napoleon. Much of the war was fought at sea and on the Great Lakes but the American army also tried to invade Canada.

Blacks fought on both sides of the war. In Canada thousands of Black volunteers fought for the British. Man of these men feared that the invading Americans would return them to slavery. Many Blacks in Upper Canada served bravely in Black and regular regiments. The British promise of freedom and land united many escaped slaves. Richard Pierpoint was one of the men who volunteered to fight for the British, and he is one of the many men that Black History Month in Canada honours. The remainder of this article about Black History Month in Canada discusses Richard Pierpoint.

Black History Month in Canada: Richard Pierpoint

In 1812 Richard Pierpoint, a former slave who had won his freedom by fighting for the British in the American Revolution, petitioned the government to form a Black regiment. His request was granted with the condition that the commanding officer would be a white man. Pierpoint himself joined on as a private. The unit consisted of about 30 men from the Niagara region, many of whom had escaped slavery in the United States. The men fought bravely at the Battle of Queenston Heights.

The British Royal Navy did not have the same racial boundaries forced by the British army. In 1814, Black regiments from the West Indies were engaged during the naval campaign. British Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane made an offer of transportation for anyone wanting to leave the United States. Four thousand former slaves deserted to the British side and were moved to the British colonies.

After the war, about 2,000 of these sailors and their families set sail for Canada, mostly Nova Scotia.

After the war, Richard Pierpoint was eligible for a land grant but he refused because of failing health. He petitioned to be sent home to his West African country. His petition was rejected so he took his land grant near what is now Fergus and in 1822 became a property owner at age 78.

This is just one of the many men that Black History Month in Canada honours.

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