Boston King, the ex-American slave and first black missionary who helped establish Freetown, Sierra Leone

Farida Dawkins September 07, 2018
Book cover of The Life of Boston King...Black Then (composite)

Boston King was a former slave, first Methodist missionary to African indigenous people and Black Loyalist. He obtained his freedom from the British and later on, assisted in establishing the town of Freetown, Sierra Leone.

King was born in 1760 in South Carolina to a slave taken from Africa. He too was a slave and also trained as a lucrative carpenter later in his life.

King joined the British Army during the American Revolutionary War.  After battling a bout of smallpox, he traveled to New York, evading capture twice.  It was also during this time he met and eventually married Violet, a slave from North Carolina who also fought on behalf of the British.

The couple was part of the group of 3,000 slaves who earned certificates of freedom for fighting in the war. Subsequently, they were also entered into the Book of Negroes – a historical collection of the names of the black former slaves who defected to the British lines during the Revolutionary War.

The Kings were among those evacuated by the British. Afterwards, they resettled in Birchtown, Nova Scotia.

Using his skills as a carpenter, King worked a series of jobs to support him and Violet.  The land grants and supplies promised to the Black Loyalists were not given in a timely fashion. The land that they lived on and thought would be suitable for farming was not.  Hence, the Kings decided to relocate. Before that, King was chosen to be a Methodist minister near Halifax.

In 1792, the Kings decided to move to the Province of Freedom. The Province was initiated by the British as a colony. It was developed for freed black slaves from Canada and London.

Close to 1,200 Black Canadians travelled to the province, which is now Freetown, Sierra Leone. They then formulated their own settlement.

Upon arrival, Violet died after contracting a fever.

In 1794, King was sent to England by the Sierra Leone Company, the entity responsible for founding the second British Colony in Sierra Leone, on March 11, 1792, to train as a teacher and missionary at the Methodist-Kingswood School near Bristol. He returned to Freetown in 1796.

King then served as a missionary to the Sherbro tribe of Sierra Leone. King also remarried.  They had two sons and one daughter.

In 1798, King penned an autobiography dubbed, Memoirs of the Life of Boston King. The book became a genre under African-American slave narratives and was also published in The Methodist Magazine in London. This was one of only three by Black Nova Scotians.

In 2003, the updated edition called The Life of Boston King, Black Loyalist, Minister, and Master Carpenter was published.

King and his second wife died in 1802.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: September 7, 2018


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