The Promise of Freedom
In this lesson plan, students will examine primary and secondary sources relating to
the themes of slavery and freedom and will interpret the experiences of Black Loyalists.
In addition to migrating to present-day New Brunswick, Black Loyalists were promised
their freedom for remaining loyal to the British Empire during the American Revolution.
The sources provide historical evidence of the lives of Black Loyalists in New Brunswick
and help to tell the story of whether the promise of freedom was kept.
Expectations for Historical Thinking
- use several sources, both primary and secondary, to understand the lives of Black Loyalists;
- assess what can and cannot be answered by particular primary and secondary sources;
- make judgements about the actions of people in the past, recognizing the historical context in which their decisions were made.
This learning activity assists students to:
- value their society's heritage;
- appreciate that there are varying perspectives on historical issues;
- recognize the contribution of the past to present-day society;
- demonstrate an understanding that the interpretation of history reflects perspectives, frames of reference, and biases;
- exhibit awareness that the voices of Black Loyalists in New Brunswick have rarely been heard.
Required Knowledge and Skills
- an understanding of the concept of "historical evidence";
- an understanding of the difference between primary and secondary sources;
- an understanding of the American Revolution and the subsequent migration of Loyalists to the Atlantic Provinces in the eighteenth century.
This activity is presented once students have been introduced to New Brunswick history in the
eighteenth century. Focus on the Loyalist migration to New Brunswick after the American Revolution
may be considered. Students should have a grasp of the cultural and political forces at play
during this time in history.
It may also be helpful to review with the class terms that may be unfamiliar to them.
Examine the resources available in the Historical Context section of the website.
Introduce the students to major topics such as slavery, the American Revolution, Loyalist migration to New
Book of Negroes,
General Birch Certificate of Freedom,
emphasizing key historical acts such as the
1807 Slavery Trade Act and the
Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.
In small groups, assign a biography of a Black Loyalist
to each group. Ask students to read the biography and document the significant events it describes.
Encourage students to conduct additional research to better understand the story of their
assigned biography using the Resources listed below.
Ask students to present their findings to the class.
As a class, engage students with the following series of questions:
- Why did Black Loyalists migrate to New Brunswick?
- What hardships did they encounter?
- What was their status in New Brunswick — free, enslaved or indentured?
- What does it mean to be free today?
- What would it be like to not be free?
- Why is freedom important?
About the Learning Resources
Lesson plans and learning activities were developed by the Atlantic
Canada Virtual Archives' Instructional Design team,
Lisa Charlong and
Jody Polec. We welcome your
comments and suggestions.
Concepts and Grade Levels
- 3 hours (3 60-minute lessons)
- Primary source evidence
- Secondary source evidence
- Moral dimension of history
Resources for Teachers