Celebrating Black History Month

Feb 24, 2023 · 2 min read

A snapshot of African immigration to Canada in the 18th Century

Grades 5 - 12


During the American Revolution, many people of African descent fled to the British side, and were relocated as free people of colour to communities in Canada, such as Nova Scotia. The British navy kept track of the names of the “Black Loyalists” who sailed from New York to Nova Scotia between April and November 1783 in a ledger known as the "Book of Negroes" (Source: Wikipedia, Nova Scotia Archives).

In this visualization, we studied a digital dataset version of this document to gain insights into their settlement in the region.

Figure: This data visualization explores the port communities in Nova Scotia where individuals listed in the Book of Negroes arrived. The y-axis indicates the number of people, while the x-axis lists the port communities. Each bar in the graph is colour-coded to indicate the names of the passenger ships that brought the individuals.

The highest peak in the bar graph corresponds to Port Roseway, which is now called Shelburne. After arriving at Port Roseway, free black individuals formed a separate community called Birchtown. Birchtown became home to the “largest settlement of Black Loyalists and the largest free settlement of ethnic Africans in North America in the eighteenth century” (source Wikipedia).

Data source

The dataset for the Book of Negroes can be accessed through Nova Scotia’s Open Data Portal, and is published with an Open Government Licence.

Reflect on what you see

Look and interact with the data visualizations above. When you hover your mouse over the bar graph, you’ll notice more information appears. You can also use the legend to make plots appear and disappear.

Think about the following questions.

  • What do you notice about the graph?
  • What do you wonder about the data?

Use the fill-in-the-blank prompts to summarize your thoughts.

  • “I used to think _______”
  • “Now I think _______”
  • “I wish I knew more about _______”
  • “These data visualizations remind me of _______”
  • "I really like _______”

Learn how we visualized the data

Go to our walk-through (in Jupyter notebook format) to see how the data science process was applied to create the graph, from formulating a question, to gathering the data, analyzing the data with code, and creating the visualization.

Building tomorrow’s digital leaders
Developing data science tools for Canadian K12 classrooms