Black History: Special Delivery!!
We are often told about the history of slavery in the United States. However, Canada also participated in the slave trade. In comparison to the U.S., the number of people estimated to be enslaved in Canada was much lower. Still those enslaved in Canada experienced the same mistreatment and abuse. We often hear narratives of enslaved people escaping to freedom in Canada. However there were also groups of slaves in Canada who escaped to freedom in the United States by crossing the border into to Detroit, MI. The stories of those enslaved in Canada has often gone untold or been ignored. Slavery was legal in Canada for 200 years. In 1833, slavery was abolished in Canada 30 years before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln in the U.S.. In 1793 a legislative ruling decreed that those enslaved would receive their freedom at age 25. This ruling was of little real benefit since the average life span of an enslaved person in Canada at that time was 20 to 25 years of age. It is estimated that approximately 4,000 slaves were brought to Canada against their will. The first recorded enslaved person to arrive in Canada was a 6 year old boy named Olivier le Jeune from Madagascar in 1628. Most of the enslaved who came to Canada came from other British Colonies and the Americas.
It is well documented that many enslaved people in the U.S. escaped to freedom in Canada. Even with receiving their freedom, they still faced discrimination and segregation in Canada. While Canada had no formal laws, “unwritten” racist codes were still in place that promoted discrimination. While many slaves came to Canada, they did not always stay there permanently. Many returned to the U.S. after slavery was abolished in search of a better life and hoping to reconnect with family members and loved ones they had left behind.
This little know story about Canada needs to be told.