They’d been on the run for weeks - their feet were rubbed raw. Finally, they arrived at their destination - FREEDOM!
Stepping on free soil felt like a dream - but would soon it would become a nightmare.
Many of us were taught that Canada represented “freedom” for enslaved Africans. Even after the Fugitive Slave Law passed in 1793, 30,000 enslaved Africans chose to escape to there leading up to America’s Civil War.
They risked everything for freedom – but upon their arrival, they faced a harsh reality.
Canada abolished slavery in 1833, but white residents were still violent toward those who escaped enslavement.
The brutality was so severe, many runaways RETURNED to America, risking re-enslavement.
So, why don’t we know this part of Canada’s history?
Just 30 years after abolishing slavery, Canada erased its involvement with slavery from their educational curriculum. Meaning since 1863 – during America’s Civil War – generations of Black people were fed a false “safe haven fantasy” about Canada.
When systemic racism occurs in America, we jokingly say, “I hate it here - I’m moving to Canada!” Historically, neither Canada nor America valued Black life.
Like the escaped runaways who returned to America, we must determine what “freedom” is and create spaces and communities reflective of this freedom.