Nova Scotia Archives

African Nova Scotians in the Age of Slavery and Abolition

John Clarkson's account of the story of Lydia Jackson
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after she had been there for seven days, he required her either to pay him for her board or bind herself to him for seven years; she was unable to pay him and refused to be bound; at length gradually shortening the period by a year at a time, he by dint of fair promises obtained her consent to be indented to him for one year; the writings were in consequence drawn up by a Mr. Harrison of the same place, but taking advantage of her ignorance the term of thirty nine years was specified in the Indenture, instead of the one she had consented to; and to this paper she without the least suspicion made her mark — Henry Hedley told her the next day that she was to serve out the year with Dr. Bulman of Lunenburg and sent her round for this purpose in a Schooner commanded by Alexander Brymer, Dr. Bulman soon after her arrival at Lunenburg


Lydia Jackson was likely one of two persons named 'Lydia' from South Carolina listed in the Book of Negroes (1783). Clarkson narrates her ordeal in his journal. A free black settler at Manchester (Guysborough County), Jackson was deserted by her husband and became an indentured servant to a Loyalist. He tricked her into agreeing to a much longer term of service and immediately sold her, as if she were a slave, to Dr John David Bolman of Lunenburg. Bolman had been a Hessian regimental surgeon (on the British side during the American War of Independence.) He abused her severely, even while she was in the last month of pregnancy. After three years she escaped to Halifax. Not surprisingly, she was among those who chose to emigrate to Sierra Leone.

Like her more famous contemporary, Rose Fortune, Lydia Jackson has not been forgotten. Her ordeal has been the subject of poetry as well as history. She appears as an icon ("Lydia Jackson, slave madonna") in a 1982 poem expressing rage against slavery, nearly 200 years after Clarkson wrote about her in his journal. (George Elliott Clarke, "Hammonds Plains African Baptist Church" in George Elliott Clarke, ed., Fire on the Water: An Anthology of Black Nova Scotian Writing vol. 2, Pottersfield Press 1992)

Date: 30 November 1791

Reference: John Clarkson  Nova Scotia Archives  MG 1 volume 219 pages 197-201; published in Clarkson's Mission to America, 1791-1792 page 89-90 (Public Archives of Nova Scotia Publication number 11, 1971) (F90 /N85/ Ar2P number 11)

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