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In December 1782, as the American Revolution wound down, the British evacuated Charleston. Swelling the number of the departing soldiers and citizens who remained loyal to the crown were 5,000-plus African Americans. All had escaped from their masters at the urging of the British, who—wanting to weaken the American economy—had promised them freedom. The British kept their word, boarding the slaves on ships in Charleston Harbor just before American troops marched up Broad Street. A number were resettled in British colonies in the Caribbean and Canada—particularly Nova Scotia, where many residents today can trace their families to the Lowcountry. It’s one of the twists of history: that the British, accused of denying Americans liberty, granted it to enslaved people whose families left behind would remain in bondage for decades.
Photographs courtesy of Ruth Holmes Whitehead