In this lesson plan, students will examine various primary and secondary sources and interpret the experiences of Black Loyalists who petitioned for land in present-day New Brunswick. These sources provide evidence of the process of petitioning for land. They also tell the story of whether the promise of land was kept.
This learning activity assists students to:
This learning activity is designed for students who have had an introduction to New Brunswick history during the eighteenth century, including the topic of Loyalist migration to New Brunswick after the American Revolution. Ideally, students should have a grasp of the cultural and political forces at play during this time in history. Information on the Loyalist migration can be found in the Historical Context section of this site.
In small groups, introduce the lesson with an examination of the historical painting, The Coming of the Loyalists. Have students complete the image analysis worksheet. As a class, review and discuss the answers to the worksheet.
The purpose of this activity is to help students understand how perspectives of an event depicted in a painting may not reflect the truth.
Remind the class that the theme of this lesson is "The Promise of Land." Read the following excerpt from The Petitions section of the website:
"...petitions document the poverty of many Black Loyalists who lacked the resources to develop their land once it was grudgingly granted. Often assessed with survey fees that white Loyalists were not obliged to pay, blacks gravitated to Saint John and Fredericton to find work just to survive. Some worked for wages as labourers and domestics; others became indentured servants for a period of years. Either way, life was hard and it took a long time to accumulate the money required to establish a successful farm. Several of the petitions in this collection are from white settlers applying for land grants that, it was alleged, had been abandoned by African Americans."
Discuss with the class the perceptions of the "Promise of Land" identified in this reading and compare them to those discovered when analysing the painting.
In small groups, assign a Black Loyalist petitioner from the list below to each group. Ask students to read the land petition documents in the collection for their petitioner. Have students complete the document analysis worksheet. From the information collected, have students construct a narrative of the petitioner's experience as they believe it happened. Have students present their stories to the rest of the class.
Compare the students' narratives with the appropriate document summaries from the the list below.
Petition of Catherine Dyer, 1 June 1815, Fredericton
Petition of Catherine Dyer, 15 May 1821, Fredericton
Petition of Thomas Peters, 10 October 1785, Digby, Nova Scotia
Petition of Thomas Peters, [n.d.], Brinley Town
Petition of Thomas Peters, 18 March 1790, Fredericton
Petition of Thomas Peters, 18 April 1790, Fredericton
Letter from Henry Dundas to Thomas Carleton, 6 August 1791