Black History Month

It being Black History Month, I thought I’d make a thread for posting snippets of Black History.

My own snippet:

When I was growing up, I learned a very interesting bit of Black history - from a site that is only a couple of miles from my family’s cottage (a/k/a cabin for Americans :wink: ).

The place is located in Oro township, Simcoe County, Ontario (now Oro-Medonte).

As it turns out, some of the first non-aboriginal settlers in Oro township were Black. The settlement was founded by Black freemen granted land for services during the War of 1812 (and later opened to any Blacks). The idea was essentially defensive: it was naturally assumed by the government that free Blacks would provide loyal soldiers to defend the area in the case of an American attack, given that the Americans were a slave society. So land grants were made to Blacks on an equal basis with Whites, an unusually progressive attitude at the time (if a self-interested one).

Later, the very end of the “Underground Railway” for freed slaves was in Oro (“Oro” from “gold” in Spanish - as in the land of gold, gold at the end of the rainbow, etc.). This is where the slaves who were really worried about cross-border slave-hunters fled.

The Black community built a church there that is still standing - the “African Episcopal Church”. It is the oldest log-built African church in north america.

Thing is, Oro is relatively shitty as farmland and naturally very very brutal in winter. After the Civil War, the settlement there gradually died out as most of the Black settlers moved to more clement climes: the last one died in the 1940s. The community (now mostly White) rallied to preserve the Church, though.

Upper Canada (now Ontario) was the first jurisdiction in the British Empire to pass laws to eliminate slavery.

I actually stumbled across the very law, while looking for something else in the statutes (having to do with inherent jurisdiction, the details of which I have mercifully forgotten …) Anyway, it was an interesting bit of legislation - I think it was passed in the 1790s or so. It did not exactly free all slaves - more like outlawed enslaving anyone new or importing slaves, and providing that all children born to slaves would be free.

The US banned the slave trade after 1808, didn’t stop it at all. How effective was Canada’s law?

It was Upper Canada’s law (that is, what is now Ontario).

There were few actual slaves in Upper Canada - it isn’t suited to large-scale slave-based agriculture, so it was mostly slaves of the servant to rich folks variety. My understanding is that slavery died out here, hastened by the War of 1812, in which free Black militia served with distinction. It was absolutely banned everywhere in the Empire in 1834, but by that time it had already pretty well ceased to exist in Upper Canada.