David George was born of African slaves in Virginia where his parents and siblings were routinely whipped.
His brother Dick ran away but was caught and punished.
|Boston King escaped from slavery to join the British forces during the American Revolution. (As portrayed by Derwin Jordan in Canada: A People's History)
"After he had received 500 lashes," George told two members of his church, "they washed his back with salt water, and whipped it in, as well as rubbed it in with a rag; and then directly sent him to work in pulling off the suckers of tobacco."
George, along with Boston King, was one of about 1,500 black Loyalists who escaped to Nova Scotia, joining 15,000 white Loyalists who had just arrived.
The blacks thought they would have equal claim to free land, but found it wasn't the case. The land grant system quickly became corrupt and overburdened. Some black Loyalists had to wait six years for land.
George, who'd become a Baptist preacher, received a quarter acre.
"It was a spot where there was plenty of water," he said "and which I had before secretly wished for, as I knew it would be convenient for baptizing at any time."
But not all blacks were as fortunate. Most of the black Loyalists in Birchtown, the largest free black settlement on the continent, received neither the land nor the provisions the British had promised. When they took menial jobs in nearby Shelbourne, white workers started riots and drove them out. George's home and others were destroyed. The blacks, who had built the town, were forced to leave.
"Great Riot Today," the deputy surveyor Benjamin Marston reported on the July 26, 1784 affair.
"The disbanded soldiers have risen against the free negroes to drive them out of town, because they labour cheaper than they the soldiers. [27 July] Riot continues. The soldiers force the free negroes to quit the town pulled down about 20 of their houses."
Undeterred, George sang and preached nightly, his thunderous, tearful sermons attracting both blacks and whites. He became the most famous preacher in the province, moving through its black settlements, lending them strength, appalled at their conditions.
Famine was rampant, and crimes of desperation were punished harshly. In Shelburne, a black woman received 200 lashes for stealing less than a shilling. George felt that he was no better off than he had been in Virginia.
To make matters worse, some whites resented his preaching and came to his church with threats.
"I stayed and preached," George said, "and the next day they came and beat me with sticks, and drove me into a swamp."