Saint John historian illuminates story of Thomas Peters, prominent black loyalist
David Peters, born 200 years after his ancestor, will share his story in Saint John Wednesday night
Black history researcher David Peters is seven generations removed from his ancestor Thomas Peters, but says he feels a strong connection to the man.
Peters will speak about the life of the prominent black loyalist at Saint John Public Library on Wednesday at 7 p.m., at an event sponsored by the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada, New Brunswick branch.
"Thomas Peters, being worshipped, as he was, around the black community, other kids turned up. I'm the descendant of one of them," said Peters.
The story has to be told of what the blacks have contributed.- David Peters, historian
"Thomas Peters was a good–looking black man. He was arrogant, he was proud and the ladies loved him."
Born into wealthy Nigerian family sometime around 1738, Thomas Peters was captured by slave traders as a young man and brought to North Carolina, before fleeing and enlisting in the British Army.
"He told himself and everyone else he came around, 'you are no one's slave, you are just in bondage. They do not own you, they do not own your soul,'" said Peters.
Thomas Peters was later taken by the British to Nova Scotia, where he and other black loyalists and their families were discriminated against.
"He just couldn't believe after they fought six years, fighting for England, how poorly they were treated," said Peters.
Thomas Peters found the situation in Saint John no better, so he raised funds to go to England to try to meet with King George III.
He never met the king, but did meet with an owner of the Sierra Leone Company, a group set up to resettle ex-slaves in West Africa.
"[His] light came on. 'Oh my God I have a chance to go back home. I'm going home,'" said Peters of his ancestor.
Thomas Peters died of malaria shortly after arriving in the new colony of Sierra Leone, but is regarded as one of the founding fathers of that African nation.
Peters says his presentation will use the remarkable story of Thomas Peters as a way to explain the important contributions made by black Canadians and Americans.
"We as blacks have been in America and Canada before Canada was Canada," said Peters.
"The story has to be told of what the blacks have contributed. And I spend a lot of time talking about what the blacks have contributed to the world."