Finding Fortune: Documenting and Imagining the Life of Rose Fortune (1774-1864) by Brenda J. Thompson

Following closely on the heels of her award-winning book The Poor Houses of Nova Scotia, Brenda J. Thompson has brought an important historical figure to light: Black Loyalist Rose Fortune.

Rose was a ‘character’ in Annapolis Royal and elsewhere. She was born a time when, as a poor Black woman, she was expected to keep her place in the community and keep herself silent. She did neither. Rose ran up against difficulties time after time and overcame them, time after time. She managed to survive gruelling times, she dealt with racism daily, she dealt with misogyny daily and she dealt with poverty daily. She raised her children, she owned and ran small businesses and she was considered the town’s police constable. She learned the respect of the townspeople of Annapolis Royale and area and left a substantial legacy.

If it sounds remarkable that such a person was lost to history, one doesn’t have to look further than the racism and misogyny of the times. Blacks, whether free or slaves, were treated as lower class, suitable for house servants or manual labourers. Many were not included in censuses of the time, and— particularly if they were women — recorded only as a number.

“…Black people were in Grand Passage in some numbers, living and dying there, but not having their presence recorded by white, Eurocentric historians. How sad. How infuriating.”

Due to the paucity of information, Ms. Thompson has had to dig deep on this one, and she has done an admirable job in seeking out scarce leads and even using DNA tests of Rose’s living ancestors to flesh out this remarkable woman’s life, her times and even her origin in Africa.

See also  Cassoulet Confessions by Sylvie Bigar

With historic documents, photos and other images, Finding Fortune deserves a place on any Black History shelf in Canada. Nova Scotia’s SSP Publications has done a beautiful job of producing this book, particularly the cover. I’m adding it to “The Very Best!” Book Awards 2020 longlist for Best Non-Fiction. 5 Stars!

Finding Fortune: Documenting and Imagining the Life of Rose Fortune (1774-1864) by Brenda J. Thompson
SSP Publications

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