Boston King

Here’s something that I was working on for a while, that I’ve really let slide. Still, it’s of interest.

Boston King was born into slavery in South Carolina in 1760, escaped to British lines during the American Revolution, was evacuated to Nova Scotia at the end of the war, emigrated to Sierra Leone in 1792, and later spent two years in England studying to be a missionary before returning to Sierra Leone, where he died in 1802.  Rather than a standard biographical narrative, when finished this book will include three distinct narratives: one at the individual level of King’s life, one following the communities of which he was a member, and a third at the level of the Atlantic World.

A woodcutter in Nova Scotia. Perhaps Boston King?

A woodcutter in Nova Scotia. Perhaps Boston King?

See Antislavery Literature for Boston King’s narrative.

See the Virtual Museum of Canada for the Black Loyalists.

A monograph examining the nearly unstudied life of Boston King, the communities he joined, and their greater Atlantic-World contexts, my project will offer a reconceptualization of how we can interpret and present the differing scales of action and interaction in the growing field of Atlantic World history. Boston was raised on a plantation and apprenticed to a Charleston carpenter as a teenager. Taking the name “King,” he joined other black loyalists by escaping to the British line during the American Revolution, thus gaining freedom through British military expediency. Upon the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, he traveled with nearly 3,000 other black loyalists to Nova Scotia, where they eked out a meager material existence much different from their white neighbors in a British colony that treated them as second-class subjects and still allowed slavery. In 1792 he joined the 1,300-strong cohort of Nova Scotian black loyalists who resettled in Sierra Leone, established as a British imperial beachhead in Africa and touted as an experiment in freedom but administered as an exercise in paternalism. Four years later, he ventured to England for training as a Methodist missionary. There King encountered the English Methodists operating as part of an Atlantic-wide movement but retreating from their earlier commitments to racial, class, and gender equality. In England, he composed his brief autobiography (published in the Methodist Magazine), recounting his physical and spiritual journey to freedom. King returned to Sierra Leone where he worked as a missionary for six more years, dying there in 1802.