Chatham-Kent Underground Railroad receives provincial recognition

Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site curator, Steven Cook accepts the Harriet Tubman award. Image: Municipality of Chatham-Kent.

The significant and outstanding sites and work of the Underground Railroad in Chatham-Kent are being recognized across the province.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site received the Harriet Tubman Award, Commitment to a purpose by the Ontario Black History Society on January 27th. Site Manager Steven Cook accepted the award during the OBHS annual meeting recognizing outstanding delivery of Canadian history. The award recognizes dedication to Black History preservation, programming and historical site stewardship.

“It was an honour to be acknowledged by the Society and our colleagues who are in the trenches with us, elevating the stories of African Canadians and how their achievements continue to shape our understanding of race, identity and freedom.” says Site Manager, Steven Cook.

A plaque was presented at the awards ceremony to Beth Hanna, CEO of the Ontario Heritage Trust which owns and operates Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Buxton National Historic Site & Museum and the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society & Black Mecca Museum are also featured in the January/February edition of Canadian Geographic. Chatham-Kent Tourism hosted Travel Writer and Influencer Heather Greenwood Davis in the fall of 2018. The magazine article features her visit, along with an online tribute to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and was released to coincide with Black History Month (February).

Canadian Geographic Magazine Featuring the Underground Railroad in Chatham-Kent. Image: Municipality of Chatham-Kent.

“It’s important to recognize Black History and this month because it honours the Black men and women who made and changed history who are too often left out of the euro-centric histories many grew up on. In Chatham-Kent Black men and women, whether fugitive slaves or free Blacks, came here and helped build our city and towns. Without their hard work, determination and influence Chatham-Kent wouldn’t be the community it is today,” says CKBHS & Black Mecca Museum Executive Director-Curator, Samantha Meredith.

“Black history belongs to everyone and like all history should be celebrated and recognized every day and not just for one month. The impact that African Canadians have made on this country is part of our collective consciousness. It’s also a time to pause and remember their struggles and to commemorate their stories and achievements,” says Buxton Museum Curator, Shannon Prince.

February is Black History Month and there is plenty for the public to take in in terms of events in Chatham-Kent to mark the significance.

Buxton Museum along with Buxton’s Next Generation are presenting “A Snapshot in the Family Album” on February 23rd at the North Buxton Community Church.

On February 1st, children are encouraged to learn more about Viola Desmond, featured on the new Canadian ten dollar bill, at the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site is hosting “A Chatham-Kent Tapestry: A Visual History to 1950 by Jim and Lisa Gilbert” on February 18th.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is also reaching out to encourage the teachings of Black History through a workshop scheduled for February 15th. It is aimed to help educators and parents incorporate the history of African enslavement into Canada into their history studies (Grades 3 through 10). More details can be found online athttps://www.heritagetrust.on.ca/en/index.php/calendar?e=38291&d=

At the Thames Art Gallery, a new exhibit open through March 10, takes a look at Black Feminism featuring artists Allyson Mitchell and Madelyne Beckles. The exhibit runs through March 10.

At the Chatham Capitol Theatre, join Benn Heppner and the Toronto Mass Choir for a Gospel Celebration on February 3rd. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

For a downloadable brochure about the three Underground Railroad sites and to learn more, https://www.chatham-kent.ca/Tourism/things-to-see/underground-railroad.

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