The Black Canadian Experience in Ontario 1834-1914: Flight, Freedom, Foundation - Page Banner

The Archives of Ontario is pleased to introduce this exhibit: a joint project of the Archives of Ontario and the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS).

The text has been authored by guest curator Rosemary Sadlier, former President of the OBHS for 22 years. Technical and administrative support have been provided by the Archives of Ontario and OBHS staff and volunteers.

This partnership has allowed us to present the dramatic story of a community which has played a significant role in Ontario's history and remains a vital force in Ontario society today.

Black Canadians were in Canada from the earliest times, initially as free people, then as slaves. With the French fur-traders, they helped found and build many of the early settlements. They had helped to defend British controlled Canada from the Americans and rewarded with land to develop

Map: Southwestern Counties of Canada West - showing the principal stations of the free colored population, 1855
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Map entitled: "Southwestern Counties of Canada West - showing the principal stations of the free colored population” In: Mission to the free colored population in Canada. PAMPH 1855 #41
BIBLiON : The AO Library Catalogue
Archives of Ontario Library

However, the largest early migration of people of African origin into Canada was sparked by changes in British law making all enslaved people free, and the overwhelming response which ensued was the Underground Railroad. This exhibit celebrates that migration and explores Black settlement in what is now Ontario.