Moses "Daddy" Wilkinson or "Old Moses" (c. 1746/47[1][2] – ?) was known as a Black Loyalist who gained freedom from slavery in Virginia during the American Revolutionary War, was a Wesleyan Methodist preacher in New York and Nova Scotia, and migrated in 1791 to Sierra Leone. There he established the first Methodist church in Settler Town and survived a rebellion in 1800.


At the time of the American Revolution, Moses Wilkinson was an enslaved African American in Nansemond County, Virginia. He was both blind and lame, held by Mills Wilkinson.[3] After the Lord Governor in his Dunmore's Proclamation promised slaves of American rebels their freedom if they would join the British forces fighting in the American Revolutionary War, Wilkinson led a band of slaves to freedom in 1776. He reached New York City, which the British forces occupied for years during the war.[2][3] In New York, the self-appointed, illiterate, fiery Wesleyan Methodist preacher gathered together a congregation.[4]

When the British were defeated in 1783, they fulfilled their promise of freedom to thousands of former slaves, evacuating them to other colonies, and England. Wilkinson and some 3,000 other Black Loyalists were transported aboard L'Abondance to Halifax in Nova Scotia;[4] he is listed with them in the Book of Negroes.[1] The largest Black Loyalist settlement in Nova Scotia was established in Birchtown, but the refugees found the climate and conditions harsh, and the Crown was slow to grant them land.[4]

By 1791, they were ready to consider alternatives. On 26 October 1791, 350 people gathered in Wilkinson's church to hear John Clarkson from England explain the Sierra Leone Company's plans to reestablish a colony in West Africa, in what is now Sierra Leone.[2] The previous attempt in 1787 had failed and he was recruiting Black Loyalists who wanted to try creating their own settlement in Africa. Displeased with the cold climate and discrimination from the resident whites, who included Loyalist slaveholders, Wilkinson, members of his Methodist congregation, and many blacks of other congregations emigrated; some 1196 Nova Scotian Settlers set sail from Halifax on 15 January 1792.[2]

The ships made landfall on 9 March 1792. Wilkinson established the first Methodist church in Settler Town.[5] The officers of the Sierra Leone Company clashed with members of the independent-minded Christian denominations, and matters came to a head with a failed rebellion led by Methodists in 1800.[4] Two Methodists were executed; a number of others, mostly Methodist, were exiled elsewhere in West Africa. Wilkinson's brand of Methodism lost favour in the colony.[4]


  1. ^ a b "African Nova Scotians in the Age of Slavery and Abolition". (official website of Nova Scotia). Wilkinson's entry in the Book of Negroes gives his age as 36.
  2. ^ a b c d Gary B. Nash. "Thomas Peters: Millwright and Deliverer".
  3. ^ a b Clifford, Mary Louise (January 2006). From Slavery to Freetown: Black Loyalists After the American Revolution. McFarland. pp. 15–18. ISBN 9780786425570.
  4. ^ a b c d e "The Radical Methodist Congregation of Daddy Moses".
  5. ^ Glenn Whipp (May 6, 2015). "Emmy Contenders: Join Louis Gossett Jr. of 'Book of Negroes' on Thursday". Los Angeles Times.

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