It is a common knowledge that enslaved African-Americans moved from south to the northern states on the Underground Railroad in order to escape slavery. However, many people have never thought of enslaved blacks who decided to travel to Canada without stopping in the North. Many African-Americans who escaped slavery avoided settling in the North because they could be apprehended and taken back.
After the enactment and subsequent implementation of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, Canada became a safe haven for enslaved blacks looking for freedom. Even before that in 1833, slavery was abolished in Canada and so areas close to the Canadian border became the ultimate destination for enslaved blacks.
The North American Black Historical Museum has received recognition for its contributions towards remembering former slaves who moved to Canada. The museum was founded in 1975 by Melvin Simpson and his wife Betty Simpson. It was started to promote community heritage and pride. The museum features the achievements of African-Americans from their original African culture and many the years of enslavement in the United States to their modern achievements. When the North American Black Historical Museum was opened, it was the third museum of its kind in North America that featured black history and attracted visitors from all over the world. Renowned civil rights activist Rosa Parks visited the museum a couple of times.
According to the museum’s curator, Terran Fader, Amherstburg town was the common crossing spot for the Underground Railroad. This is a vital part of the town’s history but not everyone knows this. The town is located about 30 kilometers from downtown Windsor and has a population of over 21,000 people.
Amherstburg was first settled in by the British in 1784 and was a major site in the 1812 Warand the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion. It became a town in 1878. It is located along the narrowest point of the Detroit River, between the United States and Canada.
The museum has a stationary exhibit on the main floor and moving exhibits upstairs. You can see artifacts, such as shackles that were used to restrain the slaves and a lashing ring where slaves were tied up while being lashed.
In addition to a number of collections that celebrate the lives of former slaves and also takes you through the treacherous history of slavery, there is a log cabin which is known as a historic home. A number of people lived there, including George Taylor, a renowned former slave who also participated in the Civil War. Inside are many artifacts donated by descendants of former slaves.
Another notable feature of the museum is the Nazrey African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was built by free blacks and former US slaves in 1848 and designated as a Canadian National Historic Site in 1998.
For those who are interested in visiting the North American Black Historical Museum, it’s situated at 277 King Street, Amherstburg, Ontario and is open from 12 pm to 5 pm, from Tuesday to Friday, and from 1 pm to 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday. So if you want to learn the black history, Amherstburg is the place to go.