If you or your family have never attended any of the Chatham-Kent Events or Site Tours that take place each year in February to celebrate Black History Month you have missed out. Ontario first proclaimed February as Black History Month in 1993 to mark the 200th anniversary of a law banning the importation of slaves into Upper Canada. Since that time, although it did not have official status, people across the province have continued to celebrate the uniqueness, and continuing contributions given by the Black Community. In 2016, the Government officially made a proclamation to recognize February as Black History Month and subsequently introduced legislation to make it an annual event.
This year will mark the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Mary Ann Shadd who had strong ties to Chatham. Her legacy will be highlighted throughout 2023 kicking off during Black History Month. Shadd, Canada’s first black female newspaper publisher was the founder of the Provincial Freedom. She founded the paper in Windsor in 1853 and moved it to Chatham 2 years later. It became a beacon to carry the message of anti-slavery and was renowned across North America. Shadd, in addition to her publishing career was a well- known anti-slavery activist, teacher and lawyer. She was born free in Delaware and worked tirelessly against slavery. She returned to the United Stated after the American Civil War to work for racial equality.
According to executive director,and curator of the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum, Samantha Meredith, the month of February is filled with activities and tours for the whole family including activities acknowledging Mary Ann Shadd. A special story-time and activity of Shadd’s Achievements will be held at the Chatham branch of the Chatham-Kent Public Library February 11. Pre-registration is required by contacting the library.
Taking place from February 7-10, in-person tours will be held at the recently re-named Josiah Hensen Museum located near Dreasden.Visit the website.
These are just 2 of the many events taking place this month to honor Black History Month. Chatham-Kent has so much Black History with its ties to the Underground Railway and the many pioneers of the Anti-Slavery era who settled in Kent County and made such a difference in our history. Unfortunately, many resident have never visited some of the well -known sites and museums. Make an effort to learn about our connections to that time. Go to the Museum sites and check social media and make it a family event. You children will thank you.