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Canadian History for Kids: Black History Month in Canada

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive looks at Black History Month in Canada. This story is a part of our continuing Black History Month series.

Black History Month in Canada

Black History Month in Canada festivities are celebrated every year honouring the legacy of black Canadians, past and present.

This year, Black History Month 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. They were quite frightened 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.

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.

Keep following Canadian History for Kids, as we continue to bring you articles for our Black History Month special.

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