Emancipation Day – Ontario Black History mini-tour
There are many Black History sites around Ontario: I found only four participating in HistoricPlacesDay, however.
Some other Black History sites have received national designation, e.g. London’s Beth-Emmanuel Methodist Episcopal Church, Black immigrant Enerals Griffin’s modest 1827 home near Ancaster, the Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church near Barrie, and the African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery at Otterville in Elgin County.
Local municipalities have moved to commemorate and protect other parts of Ontario’s Black History, e.g. Guelph’s British Methodist Episcopal Church was designated a Guelph Heritage Structure in 2013. Waterloo noted on the plaque for the log school house which it designated as a heritage landmark in 2012 that the schoolhouse was “later used as a residence for an ex-slave [Levi Carroll] and his family…associated with the early presence of the Underground Railroad in the Region of Waterloo as well as the early Black settlers to this area.”
But many, many more deserve recognition, for example Collingwood’s Heritage Community Church, or the Black History Museum which started out in Collingwood but moved to rural Clarksburg after the town refused to install tourism signage which “didn’t fit the [municipality’s] image” according to museum director Carolynn Wilson.
And what of more recent Black immigration and settlement? On August 1, 2020 Parks Canada designated the West Indian Domestic Scheme, 1955-1967 as having national historic significance.
What other stories need to be marked so they won’t be forgotten in our communities? the sites of “wellness checks” that ended fatally? the route of the biggest Black Lives Matter march in Canada? the physical location of a theatre company formed to bring the Black voice to Canada’s cultural forefront?
I hope you can add suggestions to this VisitList.
Kae Elgie email@example.com
St. Catharines, Ontario
British Methodist Episcopal Church, Salem Chapel, was built in 1820 by African-American freedom seekers. When escaped-slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman arrived in St Catharines in 1851 it became her church. Over the course of 19 trips back to Maryland via the network of abolitionists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad, Tubman conducted around 300 people to freedom in Canada. It was designated a National Historic Site in 2000.
Home of Josiah Henson, a Maryland-based slave who escaped to Canada in 1830 and helped found the British American Institute, a skills training school for other escaped slaves, and the Dawn Settlement, a community with farms, sawmill, gristmill, brickyard, on the banks of the Sydenham River. Henson’s autobiography inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s bestselling novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Founded in 1849 by abolitionist Rev. William King, this Black settlement – renowned for its superior educational system – became a self-sufficient, model, community for approximately 2,000 people.
After the Civil War, many Black residents returned to the United States, but many remained and their descendants are the current inhabitants of Buxton.
This wheelchair-accessible museum complex features three rooms of exhibits, a library and research centre, gift shop, an 1861 schoolhouse, an 1852 log cabin, a replica of the Buxton Liberty Bell, commemorative National Historic Site plaques, a large picnic and playground area and plenty of parking for cars and buses.
There were about 600 Blacks living in and around Amherstburg when the African Methodist Episcopal congregation was founded in 1826. In 1848, former slaves went to work by hand to build the fine fieldstone chapel which today houses the Amherstburg Freedom Museum. It was designated a National Historic Site in 1999. the first Black History site in Canada.
St. Catharines, Ontario to Amherstburg, Ontario
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