The historic neighborhood of Willow Grove, an vital half of New Brunswick‘s Black historical past, shall be honoured subsequent 12 months with its personal postage stamp.
Canada Put up introduced the neighborhood outdoors Saint John shall be featured on a stamp in time for Black Historical past Month.
For Ralph Thomas, a descendent of residents of Willow Grove and a proponent of native Black historical past, the honour is a very long time coming.
“It is simply unbelievable,” mentioned Thomas.
“We have now gone down by way of the years with out being acknowledged with a few of our nice people that got here to those elements and went by way of a really robust time to get began in life. And now impulsively, we’ll acknowledge a few of these people that got here to those elements within the 1700s and the 1800s.”
‘All due encouragement’
The neighborhood was based in 1815.
In the course of the Battle of 1812, the British put out a name saying anybody dwelling in the US can be welcomed within the British Empire.
In the course of the Battle of 1812, the British put out a name saying anybody dwelling in the US can be welcomed within the British Empire. (Library of Congress)
“All those that could also be disposed to to migrate from the US will, with their households, be obtained on board of His Majesty’s ships or vessels of conflict, or on the navy posts that could be established, upon or close to the coast of the US,” mentioned Sir Alexander Cochrane, commander in chief of the Royal Navy in North America, in an 1814 proclamation.
“They are going to have their alternative of both getting into into His Majesty’s sea or land forces, or of being despatched as free settlers, to the British possessions in North America or the West Indies, the place they are going to meet with all due encouragement.”
Hundreds of Black individuals dwelling on the coast within the mid-Atlantic states, many escaping slavery, made the choice to journey to New Brunswick on the lookout for a greater life.
However in line with late historian W.A. Spray, the British authorities, trying to discover houses for 1000’s of Black refugees, met resistance from the province of Nova Scotia.
Spray mentioned the British needed to ship upwards of three,000 refugees to the province, however the legislature pushed again saying there have been too many Black individuals in Nova Scotia already.
“Though the Council agreed by a vote of three to 2 to simply accept the refugees, the New Brunswick authorities was very reluctant to imagine any duty for his or her welfare.” (Cherise Letson/CBC)
So that they turned to New Brunswick, the place the reception was simply as frosty.
“On 13 April 1815, Main Normal Stracey Smyth, the Administrator of New Brunswick, requested his Govt Council to think about whether or not the province ought to obtain 400-500 black refugees,” mentioned Spray in his article “The Settlement of the Black Refugees in New Brunswick 1815 – 1836.”
“Though the Council agreed by a vote of three to 2 to simply accept the refugees, the New Brunswick authorities was very reluctant to imagine any duty for his or her welfare.”
Poor land, and in brief provide
Of the 1000’s that departed the states, 371 settled in Willow Grove, however they rapidly discovered that what they had been promised, good land for farming, wasn’t precisely what they obtained.
The plots they obtained had been smaller than the plots given to White individuals who traveled from the US.
“The coverage in New Brunswick at the moment was to provide free grants of at the very least 100 acres to white settlers,” mentioned Spray.
Plots of land given to the settlers of Willow Grove. (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick)
“But the black refugees had been to get solely 50 acres, they had been to pay for the surveys, they usually had been to obtain licenses of occupation for 3 years.”
So as to add insult to damage, the land wasn’t notably good.
“Once they obtained right here, it was inferior to they’d been instructed,” mentioned Thomas.
“, the locations wasn’t prepared for them. The grounds that got to them had been grounds that we all know, even at the moment, you continue to cannot toil them to do something with them so far as rising something or doing what you usually do once you come to a brand new space or new settlement.”
‘An ideal factor to occur’
Willow Grove shall be one in all two traditionally Black communities featured on stamps in February, the opposite being Amber Valley, Alberta.
Thomas mentioned the stamp is an effective begin to recognizing extra Black historical past in New Brunswick and Canada.
Ralph Thomas is joyful to see the arduous work and difficult occasions Black settlers needed to endure in Willow Grove is now being remembered with its personal postage stamp. (Jordan Gill/CBC)
“It is certainly an awesome factor to occur as a result of we’re now into various things with the black neighborhood, with the Black Lives Matter, the black historical past organizations looking for their historical past, actually, and inform the remainder of the world about that,” mentioned Thomas.
“It is a good time to be within the information throughout Canada. We wish individuals to study our historical past and discover out the true tales that is proper right here in their very own yard.”