Thomas Peters: Man of the People

by Sylvia Hamilton
The untold story of Thomas Peters, leader of the Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and his quest for freedom for Black Loyalists.
2016  ·  21m  ·  Canada
About the Film

Thomas Peters (c. 1738–1792) escaped enslavement in North Carolina to fight for the British during the American Revolutionary War. Following the war, he became a prominent leader and influential spokesperson for Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

A West African-born Yoruba man, Peters escaped enslavement on a North Carolina plantation in 1776. He joined the Black Pioneers in New York and rose to the rank of sergeant while fighting on the side of Britain during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). After the war, Peters, along with his wife and children, were among the estimated 3,500 Black Loyalists that the British evacuated to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Peters became a prominent leader and influential spokesperson for the Black Loyalists who were frustrated and deceived about the conditions of their postwar resettlement in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Peters fought tirelessly to get British officials to fulfill promises made to Black Loyalists, eventually travelling to London, England, to make an impassioned appeal for justice, racial equality, and land. While in London, he learned that the Sierra Leone Company was looking to establish a permanent settlement of formerly enslaved people of African descent from the Americas. Peters recruited roughly one-third of the estimated 1,196 people of African descent who relocated to Sierra Leone and founded the settlement of Freetown. There, he continued to advocate for land, liberty, and self-rule until his death in 1792.

Source: Parks Canada. (2023, February 15).
Upcoming Screenings

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Sylvia D. Hamilton
Sylvia D. Hamilton
Sylvia D. Hamilton
About the Director

Sylvia Hamilton

Sylvia Hamilton

Sylvia D. Hamilton is a multi awarding Nova Scotian filmmaker and writer who is known for her documentary films as well as her publications, public presentations and extensive volunteer work with artistic, social and cultural organizations on the local and national levels.  She was born in Beechville, Nova Scotia, a community founded by the Black Refugees from the War of 1812. She has a BA from Acadia University, an MA from Dalhousie University and has been awarded three honourary degrees in recognition of her work. From 2001- 2004 she held Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. She has taught at Acadia University and given lectures at the University of New Brunswick, Memorial, Queens, York and Simon Fraser universities, and at Middlebury College in Vermont, and the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.

Prior to becoming involved in the film industry she worked in cable television, as a radio journalist and as a freelance broadcaster. She worked with the National Film Board’s Studio D in Montreal where she co-created New Initiatives in Film (NIF), the first specific program of its kind designed to provide opportunities for women of colour and First Nations from women from across Canada to make films. As Chair of the Women in Media Foundation (formerly the WTN Foundation) she lead the creation of technical training programs for girls and women in the television/film industry. She was a member of the Second Racial Equity Advisory Committee to the Canada Council (REAC) that advocated major policy changes to ensure that artists of colour would have equal access to Council grants and programs. As a recent member of the Content Advisory Committee (CAC) to the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights, she championed the idea and executive produced the final Video Report for the CAC.

She has served on and chaired a range of film and arts related juries at the national and provincial levels.  Her memberships include the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) and the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS). Her films have been broadcast on CBC, TVO and the Knowledge Network and are in wide use in schools and universities across Canada.  She has been an invited filmmaker and keynote speaker in venues throughout Canada, and in Oslo, Freetown (Sierra Leone), Guadeloupe, the République de Mauritius), San Francisco, New York, Mexico City and Paris.  Major awards include a Gemini, Nova Scotia’s Portia White Prize for Excellence in the Arts, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation’s Maeda Prize, the Progress Women of Excellence Award for Arts and Culture and the CBC Television Pioneer Award. She was a 2008 Mentor with The Trudeau Foundation. In addition to making film through her company Maroon Films Inc, she currently holds the Rogers Chair in Communications at the University of King’s College School of Journalism in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Photo Credit: Nick Pearce