A new, $20 silver coin issued by the Royal Canadian Mint to coincide with the start of Black History month commemorates the Black Loyalists who landed in Nova Scotia as a result of the American Revolution.
The new coin unveiled Monday features a shield with heraldry representing the Black Loyalist Heritage Society. Black Loyalists arrived between 1783 and 1785 and were the largest group of people of African birth and descent to immigrate to Nova Scotia at any one time.
“We have a collective duty to commemorate the Black Loyalists, their sacrifices and their accomplishments,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday during a virtual event. “Today is a step in that direction as we unveil this coin.”
Trudeau said the Loyalists fought alongside the British during the American Revolutionary War in the hope of gaining land and freedom from enslavement. Following the war – and the defeat of the British – more than 3,000 Black Loyalists eventually settled in Nova Scotia.
“But despite the promise of better lives, they faced racial segregation, hostility and discrimination,” Trudeau said. “Unfortunately, freedom did not mean equality.”
More than 1,000 Loyalists eventually left the province and were instrumental in establishing the colony of Freetown in Sierra Leone in 1792.
Many stayed, however, and lived and worked in settlements near Shelburne, Birchtown, Weymouth, Digby and Halifax, among others. In New Brunswick, Black Loyalists settled in Saint John and along the Saint John River.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the coin is an important reminder of the “deep-rooted” legacy of Black Loyalists in the province.
“African Nova Scotians had to break down barriers and continue to do so to make a better life for future generations,” McNeil said. “The Black Loyalists â€¦ were pioneers in setting up grassroots movements in liberation and inspiration.”
Charles Smith, president of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, said the contributions of African Canadians is story that “deserves to be told.”
“It’s a story of tenacity, of strength, of hope and faith mixed with fear, anger and sometimes defeat,” Smith said. “We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and share this legacy with our descendants to come.”
The coin bears the society’s motto: “The heart of your knowledge is in your roots.” The Mint said it will limit the number of coins it produces to 5,500.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2021.