Monday, 3 February 2014

Owen Sound the Last Stop on the Underground Railroad

February is Black Heritage Month

Picture from Graphics Fairy
I have chosen to start February's series on Black Heritage with a blog post that touches on the Black History where I live Grey County ON. CA.

The Village of Sydenham, now known as Owen Sound was the last stop on the Underground Railroad.  Families having reach the end of their journey in Grey County worked hard to established themselves as free citizens in their new country, Canada.

Why did they travel the extra 286 kms/178 miles from the American Canadian boarder?  The American Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 set a bounty for the return of escaped slaves and bounty hunters heedless of Canadian law crossed into Canada scourging boarder communities for escaped slaves.  Traveling further north was the only way to ensure personal safety and the hope of a better life.

The route that these enslaved people followed was contained in songs, and symbols.  Clear markers for those who knew what to look for.   'Follow the Drinking Gourd' was the road map many southern slaves followed.  It brought them to Grey County and freedom.  Please take the time and listen to the You Tube Video it contains both the song and story of the road map.
 Owen Sound was not the only community in Grey County that held African Canadian communities.  “Priceville, Nenagh and Ceylon in the south… Negro Creek, and Holland Centre in the middle” (Grey Roots Museum & Archives, 2014) were also established communities.

I would like to say that the African Canadian's who found freedom in Grey County were respected and treated as equals - however this is not the truth.  To survive the Black communities "kept a low profile" lived as to be forgotten by their white neighbours.  I invite you to the listen the 45 minute National Film Board Video "Speakers for the Dead" this video describes how they lived and are treated in death.

For the past 151 years people have gather in Owen Sound for the Emancipation Festival which celebrated “the British Commonwealth Emancipation Act of August 1, 1834 and the United States Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863” (City of Owen Sound, 2014)  This year the Emancipation Festival is being held August 01, 2014 to August 02, 2014.
If you ever get to Owen Sound Ontario CA you can walk the Freedom Trail and see the contributions African Canada settlers had on this beautiful community. 
Click Here for Freedom Trail Map

We are only at risk of repeating history when we stop learning from it.   
As parents and grandparents spend some time with your children and talk about Black Heritage.

Grandma Snyder

City of Owen Sound. (2014). Owen Sound's Black History. Retrieved from Owen Sound where you want to live:
Grey Roots Museum & Archives. (2014). Black History in Grey County. Retrieved from Grey Roots Museum & Archives:

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