Honouring Racism????

You remember the “Unite the Right” fiasco in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017?  The rally was organized by a large number of different groups, mainly white supremacists and neo-Nazis.  People died, more were injured, some beaten up, others injured when a car plowed into a group of people.  And remember in the aftermath, when Donald Trump said there were good people on both sides?  That rally was in protest of plans to remove a Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general.

In the days following Charlottesville, Confederate  statues began falling:  activists in Durham, North Carolina, used ropes to tear down a statue of a Confederate soldier outside the city’s former courthouse; authorities in Baltimore moved to take down the city’s Confederate monuments; and the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, where state law prohibits the removal of a Confederate monument from a city park, ordered it covered up with plastic.

Confederate statues are a source of great controversy, as some claim they are a valuable part of U.S. history, while others say they enshrine evil – the evil that was slavery.  Some accuse those who want the statues removed of attempting to “wipe out any pride Southerners should have in their heritage.”  Trump argued that the removal of these monuments amounted to “changing history,” adding, “I wonder, is it George Washington next week?”; then later, tweeting that “the history and culture of our great country” are “being ripped apart” by those who wish to see the monuments gone.

There remain some 1,500 memorials to the Confederacy around the nation today.  One such is a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest that stands 25 feet high and depicts Forrest on a horse, shooting behind himself, flanked by Confederate battle flags.  The sculptor of the statue is Jack Kershaw—who is primarily known for defending the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr.  The statue is located in Nashville, Tennessee, in plain sight of Interstate Highway 65.  Since it is located on private property, it cannot be removed by state or county officials, and efforts to use landscaping to obscure it from view have failed. Forrest statue.jpegLet me tell you just a bit about Nathan Bedford Forrest …

Forrest was a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War.  On April 12, 1864, he led the Battle of Fort Pillow, also known as the Fort Pillow massacre, at Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River in Henning, Tennessee.  Fort Pillow was an African-American Union fort, and even thought the troops surrendered, they and their families who were residing within the fort were brutally tortured and murdered.  The total deaths were estimated at 350, including women and children, and there were almost as many injured or captured.

Nathan_B._Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest

Then in 1867, after the conclusion of the Civil War, Forrest became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, a position he would hold for two years.  The Klan, with Forrest at the lead, suppressed voting rights of blacks and Republicans in the South through violence and intimidation during the elections of 1868.  Near the end of his life, he denied his role in the Fort Pillow Massacre, and claimed he had never been a member of the KKK, but his words are proven to be lies in the annals of history.

So why, you ask, am I giving you a history lesson today?  Because yesterday, the State of Tennessee celebrated the life of Nathan Bedford Forrest.  It is bad enough to have a statue of a Confederate figure, but to celebrate a man who was responsible for the deaths of African-Americans solely because their skin is dark … that, my friends, is an abomination.

Bill-Lee

Governor Bill Lee

In 1921, a state representative named John Travis of Henry County, Tennessee, got a bill passed marking the 100th birthday of Nathan Bedford Forrest, and every year since, the state’s governor has signed a proclamation to observe “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day”.  This year was no exception, and current Governor Bill Lee signed the proclamation on Thursday.

Even Republican Senator Ted Cruz, for whom I have more pity than respect, spoke against honouring a man who should have been tried as a war criminal …

“This is WRONG. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate general & a delegate to the 1868 Democratic Convention. He was also a slave trader & the 1st Grand Wizard of the KKK. Tennessee should not have an official day (tomorrow) honoring him. Change the law.”

proclamation.jpgMy friend Herb tells me that I am too critical of the South.  Things like this might explain why.  Racism is alive and well all over the United States, but in most places it simmers beneath the surface, while in the South, they embrace it, they are proud of the heritage of slavery, proud to be the home of the KKK.  Sorry, folks, it’s time to change the law that honours a slave trader, murderer and racist extraordinaire.  You won’t find statues honouring Adolf Hitler in Germany, nor will you find a day dedicated to honouring his memory there.

We cannot forget the shameful past of this nation, nor should we.  But we do not have to celebrate it!

A SLAP In The Face …

In April 2016 the U.S. Treasury Department announced that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the center of a new $20 bill.  The change was to have occurred next year to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States.  Why?  Because there have been only a few women on U.S. currency, and those were on the $1 coins. We thought it was about time.  There has also never been an African-American of either gender on U.S. currency. We thought that in honour of our winning the battle 100 years ago to convince men that we had a brain that functioned well enough to do something other than birth babies, cook and keep the house tidy, it would be nice to recognize a woman who had made notable contributions during her lifetime.

Harriet-Tubman.jpgI was excited to think of a woman finally appearing on a bill, and especially excited to see that woman be Harriet Tubman.  I used to teach a Black History class every February for Black History Month, and while there were many men and women who fought the fight against slavery, and then later to gain civil rights, Ms. Tubman was always one of my favourites.  Her courage and dedication were exceeded by none.  Not only did she devote her life to racial equality, she fought for women’s rights alongside the nation’s leading suffragists.

Andrew-JacksonSo, she was to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.  Let me tell you just a little bit about Andrew Jackson.  He was a slaveowner, known for his cruel treatment of slaves. At one point, he owned as many as 161 slaves and was well-known for brutally whipping them in public and putting them in chains.  He was also the man who was responsible for the forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands.  Jackson’s Indian Removal Act resulted in the forced displacement of nearly 50,000 Native Americans and opened up 25 million acres of Native American land to white settlement.  Tens of thousands died during forced removals like the Trail of Tears in what is now Oklahoma.

Trail-of-Tears

Trail of Tears

And now, let me tell you a bit about Harriet Tubman.  Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in 1822. Early in life, she suffered a traumatic head wound when in a fit of temper, her owner threw a heavy metal weight intending to hit another slave but hit her instead.  In 1849, following a bout of illness and the death of her owner, Harriet Tubman decided to escape slavery in Maryland for Philadelphia. Rather than remaining in the safety of the North, Tubman made it her mission to rescue her family and others living in slavery via the Underground Railroad.  

Harriet-Tubman-3Altogether it is believed that she made some thirteen trips to guide a total of approximately 70 slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad, and then came the Civil War.  Harriet Tubman remained active during the Civil War. Working for the Union Army as a cook and nurse, Tubman quickly became an armed scout and spy. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.

Harriet-Tubman-4Compare these two people.  Andrew Jackson’s face is on the $20 bill, and Harriet Tubman’s was scheduled to be as of next year, but those plans have been nixed until 2028.  Why???  Because Treasury Secretary and bootlicker Steve Mnuchin does not wish to upset Donald Trump, whose hero is the abhorrent Andrew Jackson, that’s why!

See, Trump was on the campaign trail when the decision to put Ms. Tubman’s image on the currency was announced, and he expressed his displeasure, calling it “pure political correctness” …

“Well, Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill. I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic, but I would love to leave Andrew Jackson or see if we can maybe come up with another denomination.”

He then suggested that perhaps Tubman could grace the $2 bill … a denomination that is no longer being printed.  In this writer’s opinion, Trump’s statement was a slap in the face, not only to Harriet Tubman, but to women, and particularly African-American women, throughout the nation.

mnuchin-4

Steve Mnuchin

Steven Mnuchin’s attempt to justify the postponement was laughable b.s., something pertaining, he said to ‘security’ and ‘counterfeiting issues’.  The reality, however, was reported in the New York Times on Wednesday …

Mr. Mnuchin, concerned that the president might create an uproar by canceling the new bill altogether, was eager to delay its redesign until Mr. Trump was out of office, some senior Treasury Department officials have said.

And there you have it, folks.  A great woman, a courageous woman who saved many lives, cannot be honoured because it might upset the idiot-in-chief who is a fan of a misogynistic racist.  It is said that Trump has called Jackson a populist hero who reminds him of himself.  He even has a portrait of Jackson hanging in the Oval Office.  If you ever doubted that Donald Trump is a racist and denigrator of women, wonder no more … this is the proof.

Slavery and Chocolate: Some Not-So-Sweet Truths

Blogging buddy Brendan is a warrior for social justice, and this afternoon I came across this post that cries out to be shared. I must admit that I was clueless about all of this until I read this post. I only wish I had seen it before I bought candy yesterday for the girls’ Easter baskets. Well, live and learn, yes? Thank you, Brendan, for shining a light on these abuses, for I think it likely that many are unaware, as was I.

Blind Injustice

Every Valentine’s Day, Easter, birthday, and Christmas, many of us in the United States like to give chocolate to friends and/or family. Most of us look forward to getting that sweet goodness during those times of year.

For better or for worse, I’m about to sour that sweetness because of some ugly truths about slavery and chocolate.

Namely, there is a good chance that the chocolate you eat was made by slaves. But not just any slaves. Child labor.

A variety of sources have widely reported on how the three major American chocolate manufacturers—Hershey, Nestlé, and Mars (the makers of M&Ms)—all produce chocolate made with child labor. It has been a persistent problem, and a problem that isn’t getting resolved quickly.

Fortune Magazine best describes this problem in an article they wrote about the issue:
“The major chocolate companies—from Mars to Nestlé to Hershey—are heavily reliant on these countries…

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In Case You Missed It …

Tuesday’s election was about more than the Senate, the House and the governorships.  Little attention was given to some of the ‘issues’ on that ballot, but a few are of major importance.


On gerrymandering …

Michigan, one of the most gerrymandered states in the Union, overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment which provides that future legislative maps will be drawn by an independent commission. At the peak of its effectiveness, in 2012, Michigan’s gerrymander allowed Republicans to win 9 of the state’s 14 U.S. House seats, despite the fact that President Obama won the state by over 9 points that year.  Granted, it is only one state out of fifty, but added to Ohio and Pennsylvania that have already made progress against gerrymandering, it is a start.  Remember that Rome was not built in a day, and racism in politics will not be defeated in a day, either.

On funding education …

Education funding has dropped drastically in recent years. Twenty-nine states were providing less total school funding per student in 2015 than in 2008!  In 19 states, local government funding also fell. In more than half of the states in the United States, the poorest districts — districts with the highest rates of poverty — get $1,000 less per pupil in state and local funding than districts with the lowest poverty rates.

On Tuesday, six education initiatives passed overall, in Seattle, Washington; Georgia; Maryland; Montana; and two in the state of Maine.  Four others were defeated in Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah.  Although Colorado is the 12th richest state in the United States, it ranks low in terms of its education spending. It ranked 42nd in spending on public education and 39th in per pupil spending.  The reason for its failure on Tuesday?  The funding for the initiative would have come from a corporate tax increase that was turned down flat.  Those investment portfolios are a lot more important than the education of our future leaders, yes?

On abolition …

Yep, you heard right.  The State of Colorado’s Constitution still had a clause left over from 1865 stating …

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The state tried to pass an amendment to remove this clause in 2016, but the amendment failed because the wording on the ballot was so confusing that people weren’t sure whether they would be voting for or against.  The state finally got it right this year with …

“Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution that prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime and thereby prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude in all circumstances?”

It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support … 65%.  Um … so 35% want to keep the potential for slavery?  Sigh.  Some things just die hard.  It’s Colorado, the state that turned down increased educational spending.

Tough on guns …

The voters in Washington State deserve a two-thumbs-up and an ‘attaboy’ from us all, for on Tuesday, they passed one of the toughest gun regulations in the country with a 60% margin.  The measure will raise the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21. To obtain such weapons, people will need to pass an enhanced background check, take a training course and wait 10 business days after a purchase.  In addition, they will enact a storage law. Gun owners who don’t secure their firearms with devices such as a trigger lock or safe could be charged with gross misdemeanor or felony “community endangerment” crimes for allowing prohibited people (such as children) to access and display or use the weapons.

A group funded by the NRA (go figure) called Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has announced its intention to sue in an attempt to block the measure.  Let us hope there are some sensible judges in Washington State.

On restoring voter’s rights …

Florida voters have approved a ballot initiative which provides former felons with the right to vote, re-enfranchising 1.4 million people.  I applaud this one with all of my hands.  I know there are many of you who disagree with me on this issue, but my thoughts are that a person who commits a felony is nonetheless still a citizen of this nation … he or she should still have a voice in the way the nation is run and who does the running.  The ‘punishment’ for their crime is, as meted out by the courts, imprisonment or probation, but does not include revocation of citizenship.  Especially when you consider how many convicted felons’ only crime was drug-related.  So, I am thrilled that Florida took the initiative and hope to see more states follow suit.

Last but not least …

The State of Michigan passed Proposal 1, legalizing marijuana aka pot, making it the first state in the Midwest to legalize pot for both medicinal and recreational use.  The proposal passed by 56%.  Two other states, Utah and Missouri, legalized it for medicinal use only.


There were other issues, initiatives, proposals and measures covered in Tuesday’s election, some important, such as Florida’s constitutional amendment banning both offshore drilling and indoor vaping, and several states’ proposals to limit a woman’s right to choose in abortion cases, and I will have more about those at a later date.  These were all largely overlooked in the feeding frenzy over the House elections, but now we can step back and see what else was either fixed or broken by voters.

Slavery in the 21st Century???

You might have missed this one, for it wasn’t as widely reported as Trump’s rambling rants on Friday morning to a Fox News crew.   And honestly, the first time I saw the headline this evening, I almost kept going, for it sounded like tabloid news.  But then I checked the source and it was CNN.  And I double checked to see if other sources were carrying the story, and sure enough, NPR, one of the most reliable, as well as a number of locals ran it.  It reads exactly like something from the 1940s – 1950s.

Restaurant Manager Beat Black Employee for Years and Forced Him to Work Without Pay

John C Smith

John Christopher Smith

John Christopher Smith began working at a family-owned restaurant, J&J Cafeteria in Conway, South Carolina, when he was only 12-years-old.  He started as a dishwasher and worked his way up … to … slave.  Smith has an IQ of about 70 and is considered to be ‘intellectually disabled’.  Things seemed to go okay for Mr. Smith and he even liked his job … until 2009, when a man named Bobby Paul Edwards, the owner’s brother, took over as the restaurant’s manager.

Things changed for Mr. Smith once Edwards took over.  First, he stopped paying Smith a salary, then he forced him to move into an apartment behind the restaurant, and insisted he work 17-hour days Monday through Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday.  For all intents and purposes, John Christopher Smith was a slave and Bobby Paul Edwards the cruel overseer.

Bobby Paul Edwards

Bobby Paul Edwards

Edwards used both violence and threats to keep Mr. Smith ‘in line’.  He was said to have beaten Smith with a belt, or with his fists, or with pots from the kitchen, when he believed Smith was working too slowly or doing something wrong. On at least one occasion Edwards dipped metal tongs into hot grease, then placed them on Mr. Smith’s neck.  The court document states that the burn was treated immediately by other employees.  Think about that one a minute.  Edwards refused to let Smith speak to his family and threatened to have him thrown in jail if he tried.  Remember that Smith’s IQ is only 70, so where you or I might realize the futility of such a threat, he likely did not.  By Edwards’ own admission, other members of his family were aware of the abuse but said nothing.

Finally, in 2014, a local woman, Geneane Caines, heard from her daughter-in-law, an employee of the restaurant, about the treatment of Mr. Smith, and decided to go check things out herself.  She immediately saw the scar on Smith’s neck, and coupled with what her daughter-in-law had told her, it was enough to convince her to make a report to the authorities.

According to Ms. Caines …

“Customers that were going in there would hear stuff and they didn’t know what was going on, and they would ask the waitresses, and the waitresses were so scared of Bobby. they wouldn’t tell them then what it was.”

Ms. Caines first took her concerns to the NAACP, who brought it to the attention of the authorities.  Initially, Edwards was charged only with one charge of misdemeanor assault.  One charge???  Misdemeanor???  You have got to be kidding me!!!  But then Abdullah Mustafa, the president of the local NAACP, pushed for greater punishment, including federal involvement. “It should be more than just assault … we are talking about enslavement here.” After investigation by the FBI in conjunction with assistance from the Department of Labour’s Wage and Hour Division, the misdemeanor charge was dropped and Edwards was charged with one count of forced labour.  He faces up to 20 years in prison, a maximum $250,000 fine, and restitution to Mr. Smith to be determined at the time of sentencing.

On October 10, 2014, police and NAACP officials removed Smith from the restaurant to an ‘undisclosed location’ for his safety, and the first charges were filed against Edwards just over a month later.  The restaurant owner, Edward’s brother Ernest Edwards, claims to have been unaware of the abuse, as he spends most of his time vacationing in Myrtle Beach.  Nonetheless, charges have also been filed against both the restaurant and its owner.

I have some questions about this:

  • It was 2014 that Ms. Caines reported the situation, first to the NAACP. Why the Sam Heck did it take four years … four years … for this case come up for sentencing?

  • If Bobby Paul Edwards is willing to plead ‘guilty’ to these heinous crimes, what else is there? The charges are said to be a result of a plea deal, so … is there something even more despicable he has done that he is willing to plead guilty to forced labour and hope for a light sentence?


  • Those customers who asked questions about what was happening?  Why didn’t they at least report their suspicions?


  • Why didn’t other employees, who surely must have realized something was not right, report the situation. Perhaps they were afraid of losing their job, but come on, people … it is J&J Cafeteria, not Maxim’s!!!


  • Smith had family in the area … they even came into the restaurant from time to time, but were not allowed to see John C. Smith. Did they not think something was off?  FIVE YEARS this went on!  Surely somebody must have thought something was not right!

What would you do if you worked in a restaurant and saw a fellow employee, black or white, being physically abused by a member of management?  It’s not hard to answer that, is it?  So why did the other employees of J&J Cafeteria allow this abuse to continue non-stop for 5 bloomin’ years???  I really cannot imagine being so afraid of losing my job that I would see a person treated as Mr. Smith was treated.

Ask yourself the question … would it have been different if Mr. Smith had white skin?  Think about it.

Black History In Ontario – The 19th Century – A Guest Post by John Fioravanti

Today is 28 February … the last day of February and the final day of Black History Month in both the U.S. and Canada.  I have let the ball drop this month, for reasons at least partly beyond my control, but our friend John Fioravanti has helped by sharing with us so much of Canada’s black history!  Last week, I published Part I of John’s guest post, and we thought it fitting to save Part II for the final day of February, to wrap up the month.  I would like to thank John for all the hard work he put into these wonderfully informative posts!  Hey John … what say we do it again next year?

Text dividersPrologue

Upper Canada did not flourish, and Loyalist settlements remained scattered and isolated. Simcoe’s vision of a prosperous, English-speaking province was not shared in London. Britain viewed the fledgling colony as a mere appendage of Lower Canada (Quebec). Simcoe was succeeded by several ineffective British governors in the ensuing years who did little to foster growth in Upper Canada.

In 1812, America declared war on Britain while she was embroiled in a life and death struggle against Napoleon in Europe. For President Madison, Canada looked like easy pickings. Most of the settlers of Upper Canada were former American citizens, and the French in Lower Canada had no great love for their British rulers. America underestimated the determination of the Loyalists and Indigenous Loyalists led by Joseph Brant, and most of the French decided to remain neutral.

The War of 1812-1814 featured many cross-border skirmishes between U.S. Regulars & Militia and British Regulars and Loyalist militia. It eventually ended in a stalemate punctuated by the burning of the government buildings in Toronto by American invaders and the retaliatory burning of the White House in Washington by the British.

Black Volunteers Fight For Britain

In the summer of 1812, Black Loyalist Richard Pierpoint petitioned the government of Upper Canada to raise a company of Black troops to help protect the Niagara frontier. After some debate, the government agreed. A company of Blacks was formed under the command of a White officer, Captain Robert Runchey Sr.

Thousands of Black volunteers fought for the British during the War of 1812. Fearing American conquest (and the return to slavery), many Blacks in Upper Canada served heroically in colored and regular regiments. The British promise of freedom and land united many escaped slaves under the British flag. (See the story of Richard Pierpoint)

In 1813, British Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane’s offer of transportation for anyone wanting to leave the United States was widely circulated among the Black population. Four thousand former slaves deserted to the British side and were transported to the British colonies. About 2000 refugees set sail for Nova Scotia from September 1813- August 1816. Canada’s reputation as a haven for Blacks grew substantially during and after the War of 1812. 

Post-War Upper Canada

Between 1815 and 1865, tens of thousands of Blacks in America sought safety and freedom in Upper Canada by way of the Underground Railway. It isn’t easy to find documentation about the Underground Railway because out of necessity it operated under strict secrecy in America – and even in Canada where they wished to avoid border incidents. One notable exception to this in Canada was a contemporary newspaper, the Voice of the Fugitive, which was the first black-owned and -operated newspaper in Upper Canada. It was founded and published in Sandwich / Windsor by Henry Bibb, who escaped, first to Detroit and then to Canada after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. The newspaper first appeared on January 1, 1851, and ceased publication in 1854.

Underground RailroadThis excerpt from Daniel Hill’s publication, The Freedom Seekers, outlines the main areas of settlement of Black refugees in Upper Canada (renamed Canada West in 1841).

Daniel Hill, in the “Freedom Seekers,” wrote:

“Before the middle of 19th Century small Black communities were firmly rooted in six areas of Canada West: along the Detroit frontier, that is at Windsor, Sandwich, Amherstburg and their environs; in Chatham and its surrounding area, where the all- Black settlements of Dawn and Elgin were established; in what was then the central section of the province particularly London, the Queen’s Bush, Brantford, and the Black settlement of Wilberforce (now Lucan); along the Niagara Peninsula at St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Newark (Niagara on the Lake)and Fort Erie; in the larger urban centres on Lake Ontario, that is Hamilton and Toronto; at the northern perimeter of Simcoe and Grey Counties, especially in Oro, Collingwood and Owen Sound. Besides these centres of Black population, small clusters of Blacks, as well as individual Black Families, were settled throughout Canada West.”

Underground RR MapIn Upper Canada, the Underground Railroad fugitives tended to concentrate in settlements, not because of government policy but for the sake of mutual support and protection against white Canadian prejudice and discrimination and American kidnappers – looking for rewards for returning fugitive slaves to their American owners. The fugitive blacks who had arrived in Upper Canada via the Underground Railroad typically arrived destitute, and without government land grants were usually forced to become laborers on the lands of others, although some farmed their own land successfully, and some worked for the Great Western Railway.

In their concentrated settlements, the early Blacks had the opportunity to retain cultural characteristics and create a distinct community. Styles of worship, music and speech, family structures and group traditions developed in response to the conditions of life in Canada. The chief institutional support was the separate church, usually Baptist or Methodist, created when white congregations refused to admit blacks as equal members.

The churches’ spiritual influence pervaded daily life and affected the vocabulary, routines, and ambitions of their members. Inevitably, they assumed a major social and political role and the clergy became the natural community leaders. The many fraternal organizations, mutual-assistance bands, temperance societies and antislavery groups formed by 19th-century Blacks were almost always associated with one of the churches. In the 20th century, the churches led the movement for greater educational opportunity and civil rights.

In slavery, Black women were forced to work to support themselves, and economic circumstances perpetuated this tradition in Canada. Black women have always played an important economic role in family life and have experienced considerable independence as a result. Raised in a communal fashion, frequently by their grandparents or older neighbors, Black children developed family-like relationships throughout the local community. A strong sense of group identity and mutual reliance, combined with the unique identity provided by the churches, produced an intimate community life and a refuge against white discrimination.

Buxton School.jpg

Buxton School

During the 19th century, British and American societies established schools for blacks throughout Ontario. In addition, the governments of both Nova Scotia and Ontario created legally segregated public schools. Although almost every black community had access to either a charity or a public school, funding was inadequate, and education tended to be inferior. When combined with residential isolation and economic deprivation, poor schooling helped to perpetuate a situation of limited opportunity and restricted mobility. In 1965 the last segregated school in Ontario closed.

My hope is that this overview of Black history in Upper Canada during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries will serve to illustrate that this has been a story of desperate circumstances punctuated by great accomplishments by heroes who bravely struggled to survive and thrive in an often, less than hospitable environment. I’ve heard it said by a Black Canadian who has lived both in Canada and the United States that Black Canadians and Black Americans are quite different. They live in their respective countries for different reasons. As well, American Blacks are approximately 13% of their country’s population, but Canadian Blacks are just 4% of Canada’s population – a visible minority and an almost invisible minority.

The plight of Black Canadians was aided by urbanization – which led to desegregated opportunities – and the influx of thousands of immigrants from the Caribbean. I wish I could report that racism and discrimination aimed at Black Canadians is a thing of the past but that is simply not true. Happily, segregation of the races was not entrenched in Canadian law as it was in America. Tragically, many Caucasian Canadians suffer from the same cultural White supremacy tendencies that presently exist in other predominantly White countries.

A  million thanks, John, for these guest posts, and for the ones you have so generously allowed me to share throughout the month!  

 

Black History in Ontario – Part I – A Guest Post by John Fioravanti

Friend, author and fellow-blogger John Fioravanti  graciously accepted my request to do a guest post to wrap up Black History Month! It quickly became apparent that one post was inadequate, so John has agreed to do a series of two posts about the history of African-Canadians.  Today I share with you John’s excellent and informative Part I.  I hope you enjoy and I know you will learn something new, for I certainly did!Text dividers

Black History In Ontario – Early Years

Prologue

This series of articles is inspired by the revelations of my research into Black history in Canada for Black History Month. I am impressed beyond words by the courage and resourcefulness of so many people of African ancestry that escaped to Canada as slaves or freely chose Canada as their new home. Ontario is my home province, hence the focus of this series. It is my hope that this effort to summarize the early history of Black Canadians in Ontario will give readers a helpful perspective for today’s realities.

In another post, we will turn our attention to the people who escaped slavery from the American South in the 19th Century by way of the Underground Railway. Four of the five ‘stations’ or destinations were in Ontario, and the fifth was in Nova Scotia. I will explore their life experiences as they struggled to create meaningful and happy lives among an often-hostile White majority.NewFrance1750From 1608-1763, today’s Ontario was part of the colony of New France. After the British conquered New France in 1763, it was renamed Quebec. Ontario finally emerged as a separate territory called Upper Canada in 1791. The French part of the old Quebec colony was renamed Lower Canada. The two Canadas were politically reunited into a single colony, the Province of Canada in 1841. The part that used to be Upper Canada was referred to as Canada West. In 1867 the separate Canadian colonies united into a political federation called The Dominion of Canada. The former Province of Canada divided again at the Ottawa River into the modern provinces of Ontario and Quebec.UpperCanada1791Although slavery was abolished in the Canadian colonies well before this was accomplished in the United States, make no mistake, the attitude of white superiority was just as prevalent in Canada as it was anywhere in America or the white nations of Europe at that time. This attitude was not born in North America, it was transplanted here from Europe. So the Blacks who escaped or freely migrated north from the States beginning in the late 18th Century were not welcomed warmly with open arms by the Whites in Canada. They were not considered equal citizens and most often faced disdain and discrimination at the hands of white Canadians.

Early Upper Canada History

Originally part of the colony of New France, Upper Canada was home to French fur traders and Jesuit Missionaries who came to the area east and south of Georgian Bay to convert the Indigenous people they named as Huron. The French did not focus on the Upper Canada area to create large settlements – that came after the British took over.

As a result of the Seven Years War (The French and Indian War), New France passed into British Possession in 1763. There are records about the existence of Black slaves in the settled areas of New France around Montreal and Quebec City. Many of them were brought by transient officials from France and often resold in the colony. Most of the slaves were used as domestic servants and as farm laborers.

After 1763, Upper Canada became home to Loyalists and newly freed slaves from the Thirteen Colonies as a direct result of the American Revolution. Some British officials in the American colonies from 1775 onwards promised freedom to any Black slaves willing to escape and join the British army. Over 300 Blacks responded to this offer by British Governor Lord John Dunsmore of Virginia in 1775. In 1779 Sir Henry Clinton, commander-in-chief of all British forces in the Thirteen Colonies promised slaves who escaped protection in territory under their control.

Approximately 5,000 to 6,000 Loyalists left the United States for Upper Canada during and after the war ended in 1783. About 10 percent of this number were Black Loyalists – and most of them went on to settle in Nova Scotia. Some arrived as freed men while most came as slaves with their Loyalist owners. Blacks who had escaped from their owners to fight in the British army and arrived as free men were called Black Loyalists. According to records, only a few dozen Black Loyalists settled in Upper Canada between Cornwall and Windsor.

Under British law, the slaves of White Loyalists were to remain slaves. There were slaves in most if not all the Loyalist settlements in Upper Canada. By 1791 the veterans of Butler’s Rangers had 300 slaves in the Niagara area – designated as domestic servants.

Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves SimcoeSimcoeSlavery-600x331

Before the American Revolution, the abolitionist movement was making inroads in the Canadas as Britain had outlawed the slave trade in the British Isles in 1772. By 1791 Loyalist slave owners in Upper Canada began to worry about losing their property and began to sell their slaves to Americans across the border. One such incident, involving a slave named Chloe Cooley was so brutal that Simcoe decided to free all the province’s slaves.

In 1793, Adam Vrooman, a former sergeant with Butler’s Rangers, owned Chloe Cooley and decided to sell her to an American across the Niagara River in March. Chloe was upset by the impending sale, so Vrooman beat her, tied her up and forced her into a boat with the help of two other men. She screamed as they rowed her across the river.Chloe CooleyThe entire incident was witnessed by another Butler’s Rangers veteran, Black Loyalist Peter Martin. Along with another witness, he reported the incident to Simcoe’s Executive Council (Cabinet) who decided to charge Vrooman with disturbing the peace. Eventually, the charge was dropped because Cooley was considered property under the law.

Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe was outraged by the incident and moved swiftly to bring in the Act Against Slavery by July of 1793. It provided for the eventual abolition of slavery in Upper Canada by prohibiting the importation of slaves and freeing the children of slaves when they turned 21. By 1819 there were no more slaves in Upper Canada.

Thank you, John!  We are looking forward to Part II!

Black History Month In Canada… Richard Pierpoint – by John Fioravanti

I have fallen behind in my goal to share as many of John Fioravanti’s Black History in Canada series as possible this month.  In part that is because I was hoping for a return of the missing ‘re-blog’ button, and in part it is simply because it is my nature to fall behind.  It isn’t that I am inept or inefficient, simply that I sometimes bite off more than I can chew.  But a look at the calendar shows me that Black History Month is winding down and will soon be over, so I want to share at least one of John’s fascinating posts today.  This one highlights Richard Pierpoint, a former African slave who fought in the Revolutionary War and later, at age 68, fought in the War of 1812.  His story is one of courage in the face of the evils of slavery and bigotry, of hard work and storytelling.  Please read about this persona from Canada’s Black History archives.  Thank you, John, for this post and permission to share with my friends.Text dividers

Richard Pierpoint – Former Slave, Loyalist, Soldier, Community Leader, and Storyteller

Richard Pierpoint (also Pawpine, Parepoint; Captain Pierpoint, Captain Dick; Black Dick), loyalist, soldier, community leader, storyteller (born c. 1744 in Bondu [now Senegal]; died c. 1838, near present-day Fergus, ON). Pierpoint was an early leader in Canada’s Black community. Taken from West Africa as a teenager and sold into slavery, Pierpoint regained his freedom during the American Revolution. He settled in Niagara, Upper Canada, and attempted to live communally with other Black Canadians. In the War of 1812, he petitioned for an all-Black unit to fight for the British and fought with the Coloured Corps.

Finish reading the story …

Black History Month In Canada… Thornton and Lucy Blackburn

John Fioravanti has shared yet another inspiring story of Black History Month in Canada. The story actually begins in Kentucky and … well, you’ll have to read the rest for yourselves, but it is a wonderful story of two heroic black people who overcame the odds by escaping slavery. Thank you, John, for this wonderful post!

Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti

Thornton and Lucy Blackburn – Former Slaves & Toronto Entrepreneurs

The Blackburns escaped from slavery in Kentucky and fled to Detroit where they lived until they were discovered and arrested in 1833. Lucy was spirited out of jail the night before she was to be sent back to Kentucky. The next morning, her husband was rescued at the jailhouse door by a huge crowd of both blacks and whites, and together the Blackburns fled across the river to Windsor, Ontario. Again they were put in jail, this time to await extradition. However, Lt. Governor John Colbourne refused to send them back, and they moved to Toronto.

While working as a waiter at Osgoode Hall [law school], Blackburn noted that Toronto lacked public transportation. Using the design of vehicles in use in Montreal and London, England, he ordered the construction of a horse-drawn cab with space to carry four passengers. It…

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Black History Month in Canada… Marie-Josephe Angelique

February is Black History Month in both the U.S. and Canada. I have long been a student of black history in our own nation, but have, quite honestly, never studied the same in Canadian history. Since starting this blog a few years ago, I have made many wonderful friends in Canada, one of whom is author John Fioravanti. John is a former educator and an excellent writer, and he is writing a daily post highlighting a person or event from Canadian Black History Month. I thought it would be fun to learn some new things this month, about the history of our northern neighbors, so I am starting tonight by re-blogging John’s most recent post about a young woman, Marie-Josephe Angelique. Please take a moment to read John’s post, as it is a tragic, but fascinating tale. I am planning to share more of John’s stories this month, and I’m trying to talk him into writing a guest post, also. Thank you so much, John, for allowing me to share your excellent work!

Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti

Marie-Josephe Angelique: Symbol of Black resistance in Canada

Marie-Joseph Angélique (born circa 1705 in Madeira, Portugal; died 21 June 1734 in Montréal, QC). Angélique was an enslaved Black woman owned by Thérèse de Couagne de Francheville in Montréal. In 1734, she was charged with arson after a fire leveled Montréal’s merchants’ quarter. It was alleged that Angélique committed the act while attempting to flee her bondage. She was convicted, tortured and hanged. While it remains unknown whether or not she set the fire, Angélique’s story has come to symbolize Black resistance and freedom.

Angélique was born in Madeira, Portugal, around 1705. Little is known of the first 20 years of her life. She may have been first enslaved in Portugal, an active port of the Atlantic slave trade. It was likely there that Angélique was sold to the Flemish merchant Nichus Block when she was in her early teens. Angélique…

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