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Black Loyalists in 18th Century London

Image: Courtesy of Kurt Miller – KMI Studio Website:

It was during the War of Independence in the colony of America that Britain gained herself these unlikely allies. Black loyalists fought for Britain against the American colonists. Free blacks were joined by thousands of slaves who had been promised freedom and land by Britain if they joined in this battle. The idea of British freedom, i.e. complete freedom in the shortest possible time, was appealing to the escaped Africans who in the 1770s made their way to the British army position to fight for Britain and for freedom.

In September 1783, the independence of the United States and the formation of its boundaries were formally recognised. The new country was founded by an egalitarian movement and based on the philosophy of ‘equal rights’ for all.  After this treaty had been signed, the whole British faction had to leave the United States. In the eight months between April and November 1783, over 3,000 black people leaving the country on British ships for destinations as varied as Nova Scotia, the West Indies, England, Germany, Quebec or Belgium, were recorded in the Book of Negroes .

Black Loyalists in 18th Century London

London had a severe poverty problem in the 18th century. This became more pronounced as growing numbers of African-American loyalists arriving from America ended up living on the streets. The black and white loyalists had all been promised compensation for their losses in the War of Independence, however, the majority of claims from the black loyalists were denied or they were given derisory amounts condemning them to lives of destitution. The Parliamentary Commission Compensation Board reviewing the claims stated, on several occasions, that they believed the black claimants were being deceptive in claiming they were free men with property and should adopt a state of gratitude that they were now at liberty rather than pursue applications for financial assistance. In 1786 there were over 1,000 black loyalists living in London. As the negative sentiment regarding the presence of Africans in England increased there were suggestions of where to relocate these black people; the main areas proposed where the Bahamas, where other loyalists had moved to or Sierra Leone, on the West African coast.

The following year around 200 of this impoverished group migrated to Sierra Leone with government assistance; the government wanted to remove the problem of black poverty and the presence of large groups of free black people from the streets of England. There were 344 poor black people on the ship Myro that sailed from London in 1787.  The plan was to move the burden of the ‘troublesome’ black person from the attention of the public, forever . This was an indication of the racially nationalist philosophy that was to perpetuate the abolitionist movement.


Further reading and research

The Book of Negroes – that listed all the Black Loyalists evacuated from America – can be found in the archives at Kew (Public Records Office).

There is also a copy available online here

The National Archives contain records, that can only be viewed in the reading room, about the Committee for the Relief of Poor Blacks and their emigration to Sierra Leone; this covers the details of events between May 1786 to April 1787.

This article was contributed by Marjorie Morgan.Writer, Researcher. © 2013 | Blackpresence has special permission to publish this article.

Related Link: Black Loyalists

11 thoughts on “Black Loyalists in 18th Century London

  • 1st March 2013 at 7:29 pm

    A very informative read.Thankyou for the information.keep up the work…peace

  • 2nd January 2014 at 9:56 am

    Instead of calling this “black” history why do you not call it what it is which is African history. Africans were in tribal wars, they captured their enemies and traded them as slaves to Europeans and Jews who took them to the new world to work for European and Jewish settlers. Fundamentally it was the Africans who captured Africans and not Europeans, with Jewish businessmen organising the shipping of slaves to the new world, claiming Africans deserved slavery because they had the “curse of Noah”.
    This would have continued much longer had it not been for English law, and the petition that was presented to the United Kingdom of Great Britain parliament for the abolition of slavery. Of course Africans have a long history of enslaving people, they were known to have assisted the Roman Empire in the enslavement and mass murder of the ancient Britons, who are now the Welsh. This is before the English assisted in the overthrow of the Roman Empire and sent the Romans packing back to Rome.
    So do you plead the existance of “black loyalists” to Great Britain out of guilt? Were some of your ancestors murderers of the true British peoples? were they helping to enslave the true British peoples? Or is your claim of loyalty towards the neo British, who are a political movement begun from circa 1707. These people are scum, a confederacy of corrupt Jewish bankers and Scottish businessmen operating through secret society and corrupting law and order. If anyone has loyalty to them, then their loyalty may as well be to Satan.
    Instead of finding all manner of excuses for Africans to be living in the lands of Europeans, why do you not embrace your true identity. Africa is a great continent with it’s own history and culture, why not be loyal to Africa instead of the neo British.

    • 13th January 2018 at 1:29 pm

      “This is before the English assisted in the overthrow of the Roman Empire and sent the Romans packing back to Rome.” You never studied history did you Bob?

  • 10th January 2014 at 2:57 am

    Informative and revealing. Unfortunately this is the consistent pattern of the treatment of black people regardless of which Imperial power they chose to align themselves with. There is a distinct difference in the African psyche and European psyche when it comes to loyalty. There are too many historical instances to mention here. Visit my blog to read of a more recent occurrence of Great Britain’s attempt to remove the problem of Black poverty:

  • 24th February 2014 at 6:34 am

    A fascinating glimpse into a complex and ‘predominantly‘ uncomfortable subject within British Military and social history. Uncomfortable! As it maybe, one that should be included in all school’s history curriculum.

    My personal period of interest is in the French Revolution/Napoleonic wars (1793- 1815)and in particular, in the West Indian Regiments who’s roots are set in the American wars. Unfortunately! To my frustration i have found very little wrote on this subject and ‘apart from the small display at Windsor Castle’ any physical artefacts within the UK.

    I would be extremely grateful, if anyone could suggest any reading material, related places of interest (in the UK) and any displays, lectures appertaining to Revolution and Napoleonic wars.

    I would also be interested if there are any UK re-enactment groups that present the subject.

  • 12th October 2015 at 10:19 am

    Gwiz considering that eventually North America could not recognise these bakala people as persons, being loyalist seems akin to snitching on the police

  • 12th January 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Most people outside Canada don’t know this, and unfortunately not enough in my country don’t either, but Black Loyalists also played a very important role in the defence of Canada before, during, and immediately after the War of 1812. Black settlers helped form some of the country’s first mixed combat militia units, and a few served in the regular army as well. And make no mistake, a large number of these soldiers that saw military action against the Americans and took part in the war’s most pivotal battles. Perhaps the most notable Black Loyalist in Upper Canada (now present-day Ontario) who fought in the War of 1812 was Richard Pierpoint who had petitioned the government prior to hostilities to raise and command his own coloured unit. He was turned down, but eventually joined another coloured unit and fought at Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane.

    • 13th January 2016 at 12:54 pm

      Hello Craig Leslie,

      thank you for your comment.I am glad to share this information and to hear more about Black Loyalists in Canada as well. I do hope that more people become aware of this additional information.


      Marjorie Morgan

  • 30th June 2017 at 11:37 am

    Why do you persist in presenting this story and indeed all of Black history as a victim narrative. I’m one of the descendants of the Black loyalists. The crown kept it’s promise to us to give us our liberty. The Americans were demanding their property back.
    Had Britain not kept its promise I wouldn’t be here.

    • 1st October 2017 at 11:08 pm

      Your perspective and addition to this narrative is refreshing; thank you.
      What has been written was gleaned from available information.
      I’m glad that you have added to this valuable piece of historical information.
      I would note, however, that in my research and writing I know that not all Black history is portrayed as a victim narrative.


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