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Marie Marguerite Rose, a Black slave who lived in Louisbourg in the 18th century, was a key figure in the initial phase of Black slavery in Canada and stood out among emancipated slaves in New France (excluding Louisiana and the Illinois Country). Her capture, transportation and sale into 19 years of slavery are indicative of the presence of slavery in Canada and in the colony of Île Royale during the French Regime, which had an estimated combined population of 1,330 Black slaves.
Marie represents one of several hundred slaves, both African and Aboriginal, who lived at Louisbourg between 1715 and 1758. More significantly, she was one of those rare women who, after years of servitude, obtained her freedom and some measure of independence by running a small tavern. Many details of her life are known, beginning with her birth in Guinea, Africa, continuing with the birth of her son (probably the son of her “owner,” Jean Loppinot) and the boy’s death at the age of 13.
After 19 years of servitude in the Loppinot family, Marie Marguerite Rose became emancipated and, in the fall of 1755, she married a free Mi’kmaw man, Jean Baptiste.
To support herself, she became an innkeeper; she successfully set up her business in a choice location in Louisbourg, at the corner of Saint-Louis Street and Place d’Armes, near the barracks. Her life was quite exceptional as, unlike the slaves in most colonies in New France, she was able to become emancipated, to marry a free man who was not part of her cultural community, and to carve out a niche among the merchants of Louisbourg. She died just two years later, and the inventory taken after her death gives rare insight into the life of a former slave of the period: her clothes, the simple furniture in her bedroom and tavern, the ingredients in her kitchen and the half-completed sewing and knitting in her workbasket.