Black History Month
February is Black History month and I encourage all members of our community to learn more and celebrate St. Catharines rich black history.
Many are familiar with Harriet Tubman and that historically St. Catharines was a stop along the Undergound Railway which served as a sanctuary for those who fled for freedom and from persecution.
Some additional interesting STC history facts:
Richard was a pioneer and the first black landowner in the city. He was a child when he was brought from West Africa and enslaved. Richard was freed after fighting in the Revolutionary War and given 200 acres of land. He later sold that land, moved to St. Catharines and built a home on land which is now known as Centennial Gardens. Next time you are walking through the park, take a look at the plaque in honour of Mr. Pierpoint.
British Methodist Episcopal Church, Salem Chapel
An important landmark and was dedicated as a National Historic Site in 1993. As a church it is a place for people to pray and share faith. It also pays tribute to the heritage and culture of early African American freedom seeker settlers and is significant to our community’s roots.
Post Underground Railroad
Read stories about escaped slaves who put down roots in our City after and contributed to building our community. Such as the “Ball Family Jubilee Singers”, entrepreneurs and advocates for equality. https://bit.ly/31oxZaA
The St. Catharines Orioles
One of the first hockey teams made up of all black players. They had many challenges, faced prejudice and it’s important to continue to share their story. Learn more: https://sprtsnt.ca/2GQFKwL
Helen Mabel Smith – Activist
Helen was a strong, advocate for the Black community and helped spread the rich black culture and history in St. Catharines. Helen was instrumental in saving the BME Church and led the fight to have it receive official heritage designation. https://bit.ly/395uVTw
Rev. Anthony Burns
Anthony Burns was one of the most famous escaped slaves from the US who gained freedom in Canada. He was minister of the Zion Baptist Church for escaped slaves who fled to freedom from the United States to Canada on the famed Underground Railroad and is buried at Victoria Lawn in the Old Cemetery where a plaque stands in his honour.
Emancipation Day celebrations: Lakeside Park
The first Thursday of every August was known as the ‘Big Picnic with a massive gathering of as many as 8,000 locals and visitors to celebrate Emancipation Day. This picnic served as a time to celebrate freedom and to foster greater solidarity and pride among members of the Black Canadian community and it was also in memory of the amazing achievements in the face of persistent racism.
Port Dalhousie Carousel – Black Horse
The “Black Horse” at the Carousel was designated as a symbol of the troupe of black horses that were led by representatives of the Coloured Corps – who were the famous organization of freed slaves of African descent who volunteered to fight with the British in the War of 1812. This horse is a reminder of the courage and tenacity of ancestors of the Black Canadian and African American communities, both in Niagara and throughout North America.
This is just a snap shot of our great history. The St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre is hosting the “Follow the North Star” exhibit of local history and guided tours this month. I encourage you to check out this award-winning exhibit and/or check out their blogs: https://bit.ly/2vQ2Cu0