Living until the age of 54, Thomas Peters lived an eventful life and achieved much at a time when Black people were mostly enslaved in the West. His most significant achievement would come as a founder of Sierra Leone.
LIFE IN THE COLONIES AND REVOLUTIONARY WAR
A part of the Yoruba tribe, Thomas Peters was born in Nigeria and captured by the French at 22-years old. In 1760, Peters found himself on a plantation in French-held Louisiana. By the start of the American Revolution, Peters had attempted three escapes. He would ended up on a plantation in Wilmington, North Carolina.
With the outbreak of the American Revolution Thomas Peters took the opportunity to flee North Carolina. He would join up with the Black Pioneers, a unit of runaways who became Black Loyalists upon hearing the British offering freedom for fighting.
Injured twice, Thomas Peters would become sergeant of the Black Pioneers in the course of the war.
LIFE IN CANADA
Before arriving in Canada, Thomas Peters starts a family with South Carolina runaway Sally Peters. The two would have a daughter named Clairy born before the war and a son named John born a decade later. The family and other Black Loyalists leave for Nova Scotia in British-held Canada in 1783.
In the 1790s, the Black Loyalists are in Nova Scotia with no land of their own. This motivates Peters to petition for more land from the Crown. Going town to town, he gathered signatures from the roughly 3,500 Black Loyalists. With the signatures, he set sail for England. Doing so put him at risk of being re-captured, but he manages to arrive in London in 1791.
With help from Granville Sharp, the Black Nova Scotians are gain land to establish a colony in Sierra Leone. This sees England uphold its end of the promise but it serves as a long game. Without sending a number of native Britains into potentially dangerous lands, England would come in and make it an official Crown colony.
In establishing Freetown, Thomas Peters and John Clarkson would head up the effort to recruit Black settlers. Drawing from the Black populations of Nova Scotia, Peters and Clarkson managed to get 1,100 for the effort.
Thomas Peters had high hopes of being the leader of the Nova Scotians arriving in Sierra Leone—particularly of the Annapolis Royal group. However, upon landing at St. George Bay Harbor in 1792, Governor John Clarkson was voted by the Nova Scotians as leader. Peters wouldn’t have years to stew about the slight as malaria took him during 1792’s rain season.