How Mant Slaves Moved To Canada Using The Underground Railroad?

Fearing for their safety in the United States after the passage of the first Fugitive Slave Law in 1793, over 30,000 slaves came to Canada via the Underground Railroad until the end of the American Civil War in 1865. They settled mostly in southern Ontario, but some also settled in Quebec and Nova Scotia.

How many slaves came to Canada from the Underground Railroad?

An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 freedom seekers entered Canada during the last decades of enslavement in the US. Between 1850 and 1860 alone, 15,000 to 20,000 fugitives reached the Province of Canada.

How many black slaves escaped to Canada?

Up to thirty thousand slaves fled to Canada and, as in the northern U.S., many free blacks joined together to provide aid and advice.

How many slaves did the Underground Railroad help?

According to some estimates, between 1810 and 1850, the Underground Railroad helped to guide one hundred thousand enslaved people to freedom. As the network grew, the railroad metaphor stuck. “Conductors” guided runaway enslaved people from place to place along the routes.

How many slaves are in Canada today?

Prevalence. The Global Slavery Index estimates that on any given day in 2016 there were 17,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Canada, a prevalence of 0.5 victims for every thousand people in the country.

Why did slaves go to Canada?

Many Black people migrated to Canada in search of work and became porters with the railroad companies in Ontario, Quebec, and the Western provinces or worked in mines in the Maritimes. Between 1909 and 1911 over 1500 migrated from Oklahoma as farmers and moved to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

How was Canada involved in the Underground Railroad?

Citizens of what soon became Canada were long involved in aiding fugitive slaves escape slave-holding southern states via the Underground Railroad. In the mid-1800s, a hidden network of men and women, white and black, worked with escaped slaves to help them to freedom in the northern U.S. and Canada.

When did slavery end in Canada?

Slavery itself was abolished everywhere in the British Empire in 1834. Some Canadian jurisdictions had already taken measures to restrict or end slavery by that time. In 1793 Upper Canada (now Ontario) passed an Act intended to gradually end the practice of slavery.

Did Harriet Tubman end up in Canada?

According to the act, all refugee slaves in free Northern states could be returned to enslavement in the South once captured. Tubman therefore changed her escape route so that it ended in Canada. She then began and ended her rescues in St. Catharines, Canada West (Ontario), where she moved in 1851.

How many slaves did Harriet Tubman help free via the Underground Railroad?

Harriet Tubman is perhaps the most well-known of all the Underground Railroad’s “conductors.” During a ten-year span she made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom. And, as she once proudly pointed out to Frederick Douglass, in all of her journeys she “never lost a single passenger.”

How many slaves did Harriet Tubman save?

Fact: According to Tubman’s own words, and extensive documentation on her rescue missions, we know that she rescued about 70 people —family and friends—during approximately 13 trips to Maryland.

What made slavery illegal in all of the United States?

Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States and provides that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or

Who is considered black in Canada?

Black Canadians, or African Canadians, are people of African or Caribbean ancestry who live in Canada. According to the 2016 Canadian census, 1.2 million Canadians (3.5 per cent of the population) identified as being Black.

How much money did the Church of England make from slavery?

When parliament voted compensation in 1833 – to former slave owners rather than the slaves themselves – the church received £8,823 8s 9d, about £500,000 in today’s money, for the loss of slave labour on its Codrington plantation in Barbados.

Underground Railroad

During the 1850s and 1860s, slaves fleeing the hardships of plantation life in the American South found shelter in British North America, which became a favorite destination for them. In all, 30,000 slaves escaped to Canada, many with the assistance of the underground railroad, which was a hidden network of free blacks and white supporters who assisted runaways in their escape. Canada was seen as a secure sanctuary where a black person may live without fear of persecution. Slavery has been banned in Upper Canada (formally known as Canada West) since the end of the 1700s, according to historical records.

Mary Ann Shadd was a freeborn black lady from Delaware who was not born into slavery and who eventually migrated in Canada.

“In Canada, like in other newly populated nations, there is a lot of work to be done, but there are only a few people available to do it.

In exchange for a shot at freedom, many black people were ready to risk everything, and one of their heroes was a black lady named Harriet Tubman.

  1. After fleeing to the north in search of freedom, she rose to become one of the most important organizers of the underground railroad.
  2. If I couldn’t have one, I’d take the other, because no man should be allowed to steal my life “Tubman shared his thoughts.
  3. They followed rivers, concealed in bogs and forests, and were continually on the lookout for slave-hunters lurking behind them.
  4. Tubman made 19 visits to the South between 1850 and 1860, resulting in the liberation of around 300 persons.
  5. Anti-slavery societies arose in the cities and towns of British North America as a response to the influx of newly arrived Africans.
  6. Each pro-elimination assembly was followed by one advocating for the abolition of black immigration.
  7. The people of the United States should carry the weight of their misdeeds, according to one colonist.
  8. Uncertain opinions concerning blacks and their status in the colonies were brought to light by one particular instance.
  9. If the slave-hunters were unable to locate the individual they were seeking for, they would occasionally take someone else to sell into slavery.
  10. According to the plan, the youngster would be transported to the Southern states aboard a train that would pass via Chatham, a town of 3,585 people in which half the population was black.
  11. The raid on the train, despite the fact that Venus turned out to be a freeborn black woman, nonetheless caused consternation among some white Canadians.

Some Negroes made the discovery here and telegraphed it to the coloured people in Chatham, who gathered a mob of three hundred people and, when the train arrived at the station, they forcibly removed the boy from his master, despite the fact that the child cried and expressed his reluctance to be taken away.

When they were unable to pay the hefty penalties, some of them were sentenced to prison.

William, Isaac’s aunt, wrote to him from her residence in Delaware.

The American gold rush will eventually come to an end, and Canada will be transformed into a hunting field for the American bloodhound.” Despite this, many slaves were able to find refuge in Canada, where they became a part of a new country that was on the cusp of transformation.

To Canada and Back Again: Immigration from the United States on the Underground Railroad (1840-1860)

The MA Public History Program at Western University students created this video.

Fugitive or Free?

Prior to 1850, runaway slaves who managed to make their way from the southern United States to the northern states were regarded to have gained their freedom. However, with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, the northern states were no longer considered a safe haven for fugitive slaves. Slavecatchers may be able to apprehend and return escaped slaves to their respective masters. In addition, anyone who had escaped slavery by emigrating to a free state years previously may be deported back to servitude under certain circumstances.

The same threat existed for all free blacks, regardless of race.

Once they had crossed into Upper Canada, all men, women, and children were free to go wherever they wanted.

LC-USZC4-4550 is the Library of Congress’s catalog number for this item.

The Underground Railroad

In the United States, the Underground Railroad was a network of safe houses operated by abolitionists in both free and slave states, as well as Canada and the United Kingdom. Slavery was abolished because of the efforts of those who assisted slaves on their way to freedom – free blacks, Quakers, and other campaigners – who risked their lives fighting against it. Despite the fact that there was never a true railroad, safehouses were referred to as stations, and those who lived in them were referred to as stationmasters.

New Land, New Life

In Canada West (previously Upper Canada), black males were granted the ability to own property and vote if they satisfied certain qualifications regarding ownership of property. It was possible for all black people to make a living, get married, and establish a family. Building a new life in Canada was made possible thanks to the help of the Canadian government and abolitionist organisations in both Canada and the United States of America. Refugees were permitted to purchase land at a discounted cost, and educational subsidies were made available to them.

Did You Know?

The province of Upper Canada was renamed Canada West in 1841, and now it is a component of the modern-day Canadian province of Ontario.


When escaped slaves first arrived in Canada West, the vast majority of them chose to live near the United States border. Because of this, they were able to remain closer to family relatives who were distributed around the United States. During this time period, white folks acted in a largely neutral manner toward them. When fugitive slaves began to arrive in greater numbers in the United States around 1840, white residents began to feel threatened. Some people were concerned that these escaped slaves would be unable to work and would be forced to rely on government help instead.

The petition was eventually signed by over 100,000 people. Following the abolition of slavery, they were concerned about an uncontrollable flood of freshly liberated blacks.

Creating Community

Black immigrants settled in a variety of towns and communities, including Hamilton, St. Catharine’s, Windsor, and Toronto, as well as other locations. The Chatham-Kent region of Canada West has the highest population of black immigrants and refugees, according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. In the 1820s, a handful of all-black towns were formed in the United States. William Wilberforce, a former slave who created Wilberforce, was the world’s first community of this type. The Dawn Settlement was established in 1834 by escaped slave Josiah Henson.

  • Later, the towns of Wilberforce and the Dawn Settlement were either abandoned or incorporated into other cities.
  • The Buxton Mission is still in operation today in the town of North Buxton, Ontario.
  • Some claimed it was the most effective means of protecting oneself, while others were concerned that it was contributing to the continuation of inequality.
  • Elgin Settlement, located in what is now Chatham, Ontario, was established in 1849.
  • The Elgin Settlement as seen on a map from 1860.

Josiah Henson

Black immigrants settled in a variety of towns and communities, including Hamilton, St. Catharine’s, Windsor, and Toronto, as well as other cities. The Chatham-Kent region of Canada West was home to the highest number of black immigrants and refugees. In the 1820s, a number of all-black towns were formed around the United States. Wilberforce, created by former slave James C. Brown, was the world’s first colony of this type. The Dawn Settlement was founded in 1834 by escaped slave Josiah Henson.

  • Later, the towns of Wilberforce and the Dawn Settlement were either abandoned or acquired by neighboring communities.
  • It is still possible to visit the Buxton Mission in North Buxton, Ontario.
  • Those who supported it felt it was the most effective means of protecting themselves, while those who opposed it claimed it was perpetuating inequality.
  • Located in what is now Chatham, Ontario, Elgin Settlement first opened its doors to residents in 1849.

This is an 18th-century map of the Elgin Settlement. The William King collection (e000755345) is held at the Library and Archives Canada.

Making Their Mark

Wherever they landed across Canada, black immigrants who arrived to the country via the Underground Railroad made significant contributions to the well-being of their respective communities. Many of them went on to become farmers, raising crops such as wheat, peas, tobacco, and hemp. Others were experienced tradespeople who worked as blacksmiths, shoemakers, and wagon makers, among other things. The majority of black women, like their white counterparts, did not have jobs outside the house. They cared for their children or earned a living as seamstresses and washerwomen in the factories.

See also:  Which Legislation Hurt The Underground Railroad?


Mrs. Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893), the daughter of an Underground Railroad “station master,” was an abolitionist pioneer and advocate for black refugees who came to Canada during the American Civil War. C-029977 is the number assigned by Library and Archives Canada. A number of publications were established in order to raise awareness of the opportunities available to black people in Canada, to disseminate news, and to advocate for the abolition of slavery. One of the early black newspapers in Canada, The Voice of the Fugitive was established in Sandwich, Canada West, in 1851 and was one of the country’s first black publications.

Following that, Mary Ann Shadd Cary started another newspaper, the Provincial Freeman, which she published until her death.

Shadd Cary was the first black woman to be elected to political office in the United States.

The Voice of the Fugitive was one of the first periodicals in Canada West to be published in order to raise awareness of the possibilities and services available to African-Americans.

Did You Know?

After meeting certain requirements, black men were granted the right to vote upon their arrival in Canada. Women in Canada were not granted the right to vote in federal elections until 1919, and Aboriginal people were not granted the right to vote until 1960.


While on the surface, life looked to be far better in Canada, this newfound independence had its limitations. Despite the fact that slaves were granted freedom in Canada, they were nevertheless subjected to racism, persecution, and discrimination. Blacks were pushed away from Canada as a result of these beliefs, while other circumstances drew them back towards the United States over time. The passage of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which ended slavery, resulted in a significant improvement in the conditions of black people in the United States.

Those who remained in Canada continued to make contributions to their communities, and over time, they were successful in breaking down many racial barriers.

Many of the descendants of those who returned to the United States may trace their ancestors’ journeys back to Canada, where they followed in the footsteps of their forefathers and foremothers who traveled via the Underground Railroad.


Upper Canada’s John Graves Simcoe signs the Act Against Slavery into law in the year 1793. The British Emancipation Act of 1834 formally abolishes the system of slavery across the British Empire, with the exception of the colonies. The Dawn Settlement is established near Dresden, Canada West, in the year 1842. The Elgin Settlement, Canada West, is established in 1849. The Fugitive Slave Act is passed in the United States of America in 1850. Sandwich, Canada West, is the site of the inaugural publication of The Voice of the Fugitive newspaper in 1851.

  • Henry W.
  • The American Civil War began in 1861.
  • The American Civil War comes to a conclusion in 1865.
  • – In Washington, D.C., Mary Ann Shadd Cary succumbs to her injuries.

Fugitive Slaves in Canada, African American Community during Slavery, African American Identity: Vol. I, 1500-1865, Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature, Toolbox Library, National Humanities Center

8. CanadaWhen Great Britain abolished slavery in its empire in 1834,thus making all its possessions free territory, thousands of African Americans escaped to the refuge of Canada. The migration was further spurred in 1850 with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act that permitted the capture and return of escaped slaves anywhere in the U.S.—thus the North was no longer a safe haven for escaped slaves. Up to thirty thousand slaves fled to Canada and, as in the northern U.S., many free blacks joined together to provide aid and advice. Henry Bibb and Josiah Henson, themselves escaped slaves (whose narratives are excerpted in this Toolbox), formed the Refugees’ Home Colony in Canada in 1851, and Bibb established the first black newspaper in Canada, theVoice of the Fugitive. In an anti-slavery meeting (ca. 1850), Bibb delivered a welcome statement to fugitive slaves arriving in Canada. Interwoven in his brief statement are the themes of self-determination, self-respect, and, at last, self-ownership.Fugitive settlements in Canada grew steadily, primarily in western Ontario. In 1855 the white abolitionist Benjamin Drew travelled through “Canada West” to interview fugitive slaves who had settled there, publishing theirnarratives inA North-Side View of Slavery: The Refugee(the narratives of John Little and his wife are included in Theme I: ENSLAVEMENT: Runaways). In these selections we read from Drew’s descriptions of seven fugitive communities—from large planned settlements developed by anti-slavery activists, to groups of African Americans in large Ontario cities, to isolated backcountry groups of black farmers—and of the “True Bands” which he describes as “colored persons of both sexes, associated for their own improvement.” Brief excerpts from fifteen of the fugitives’ narratives are included. How did newly free African Americans create communities for themselves in the safe haven of Canada? (8 pages.)Discussion questions
  1. What strategies did escaped slaves use to establish communities for themselves in Canada’s safe haven? What kind of assistance did they receive from others (both black and white)? What was the difference between their experiences and those of fugitive slaves who remained in the northern United States
  2. Was the sense of community among runaway slaves impacted by their slave past, their escape experience, and the dangers to their security, even if they were operating in free territory? Compare and contrast the “True Bands” in Canada with other groups formed by African Americans for the benefit of both communities (see5: Mutual Benefit.) What needs and goals were identified as being of the utmost importance by these groups
  3. What was the motivation for Benjamin Drew’s publication of The Refugee, and who was the intended audience? To eliminate what rumors, “doubt, and bewilderment” was he attempting to achieve
  4. What both hampered and aided the attempts of antebellum African Americans to unite their communities
  5. Comparisons may be made between the migration experiences of these African Americans and those who moved to the northern United States in the early twentieth century (see The Making of African American Identity, Vol. III, Theme II: MIGRATIONS).
Welcome statement: 1
Canada fugitives: 7
TOTAL 8 pages
Supplemental SitesCanada: The Promised Land, in In Motion: The African American Migration Experience, from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (New York Public Library)The Black Canadian Experience in Ontario, 1834-1914: Flight, Freedom, Foundation, from Archives of OntarioThe Underground Railroad: Niagara’s Freedom Trail, from the City of St. Catharines, Ontario, CanadaA North-Side View of Slavery: The Refugee, 1856, by Benjamin Drew, full text in Documenting the American South, from the University of North Carolina LibraryInterviews with five fugitive slaves in Canada, in Drew,A North-side View of Slavery, 1856, in From Revolution to Reconstruction, University of Groningen, The NetherlandsAccount of escape to Canadathrough Wisconsin, from the Wisconsin Historical SocietyHistory of Buxton, early African American community in Ontario, Canada, from the Buxton National Historic Site and MuseumOn fugitives in Mexico:Rebellion: John Horse and the Black Seminoles, from J. B. Bird and the Southwest Alternate Media ProjectGeneral Resourcesin African American HistoryLiterature, 1500-1865

Images:- Group of fugitive slaves in Ontario, Canada, photograph, ca. 1850. Reproduced by permission of the New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture.- “Free Slaves in Canada,” broadside, 1859. Library and Archives Canada, William King funds, MG 24 J 14, p. 863. Permission pending.*PDF file- You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software, you maydownload it FREEfrom Adobe’s Web site.

Settlements in Canada

Written by Dr. Bryan Walls After the War of 1812, American officers stationed at Fort Malden (now Amherstburg, Ontario) brought back tales of a land where fugitive slaves were welcomed, which they shared with their fellow citizens in the United States. The outcome was that large numbers of enslaved freedom seekers were able to make their way to Amhersburg. During a trip of Upper Canada in 1844, the renowned abolitionist Levi Coffin characterized Amherstburg as “the chief terminal place in Canada of the Underground Railroad.” Between 1817 and 1822, the township of Ferry, which would eventually be known as Windsor and Sandwich Township, served as the initial refuge for many of the first significant wave of fugitives to enter Upper Canada.

The Matthew Settlement, Edgar, Mt.

Pleasant, Rochester and Harrow.

This town represented a ray of hope for a better life, a yearning shared by Underground Railroad migrants in colonies across Canada at the time of its founding.

The Refugee Home Society Settlement

My ancestors acquired land from the Refugee Home Society at the Puce River colony, which was then known as the Puce River Settlement. In the middle of the nineteenth century, there was woods and trees on every side. The Refugee Home Society Settlement land proposal was suggested by Henry Bibb, the founder of the “Voice of the Fugitive” newspaper, with assistance from the American Missionary Association, and was eventually approved. Lots were acquired and then resold to refugees at a low price on favorable circumstances.

  • John and Jane Walls were worried about their personal safety as well as the protection of their children.
  • When it came down to it, the truth was weirder than fiction.
  • He is a Baptist, and his life narrative is a little strange.
  • After his previous master passed away, his mistress relocated to Canada with her children, bringing this man with her.
  • He owns a little farm and has paid off his debts.
  • Wheeler, a former Oberlin student, now teaches at Little River Elementary School, which is a model of excellence.
  • Because many policies and judgments were incorrect, the Refugee Home Society was unable to achieve the aims set out by its founding members.

A more accurate measure of its effectiveness, however, is the fact that many families have continued to live there today in harmony with their neighbors, and some of these families have roads named after them, such as “Walls Road.”

Underground Railroad Settlements were located throughout Ontario, Canada

During the nineteenth century, small Black communities were firmly established in six areas of Canada West: along the Detroit frontier, that is at Windsor, Sandwich, and Amherstburg and their environs; in Chatham and its surrounding area, where the all-Black settlements of Dawn and Elgin were established; in what was then the central section of the province, particularly London and the Queen’s Bush; and in the Black settlement of Elgin, which was established in the late nineteenth century.” Beyond these concentrations of Black people, tiny groups of Blacks and individual Black Families were established across Canada’s western regions,” says the author.

The Elgin Settlement / The Buxton Mission

Buxton, Ontario, is home to one of the most successful Canadian communities. The Presbyterian minister Reverend William King created the Elgin Settlement, which contains the Buxton Mission. Following the death of his father-in-law, King acquired 14 slaves, to which he later added another before traveling north and freeing them all in the state of Ohio. King was resolved to establish a shelter for African-Americans who were entering Canada. On November 28, 1849, over the opposition of Edwin Larwill, a White radical, and other allies, King established the Elgin Settlement with the help of 15 slaves from the state of Ohio.

  • The 360,000 acres of property in Raleigh Township were divided into 2,000 acre lots, which were acquired by new immigrants.
  • A church and school building, as well as a post office, were constructed in the year 1850.
  • Educating their children was extremely important to the settlers in Elgin, and their Buxton Mission School was significantly superior to the government-run schools.
  • All were drawn to the university because of the high level of education provided.
  • During the course of the settlement’s growth and development, the settlers overcame the antagonism and prejudice of their White neighbors.

Education, hard effort, and imagination were all important factors in achieving liberation from slavery, just as they are today. Modern-day enslavers such as drugs, hostility, low self-esteem, and violence are just a few of the threats that may rob people of their freedom in today’s modern world.

The story of slavery in Canadian history

The role that Canada played as a safe haven for Americans escaping captivity by way of the Underground Railroad is something that Canadians take great pleasure in when they talk about slavery in the mid-1800s. It’s important to note that this is only part of the tale. Similarly to the United States, this nation has a long history of slavery, which we should never forget – and which we should never forget about. When did slavery first occur in the territory that is today known as Canada? Even before the advent of Europeans, slavery in what is now Canada existed, with certain Indigenous peoples enslaving prisoners of war captured during battle.

  1. The Europeans, in contrast to Indigenous people, saw enslaved people less as human beings and more as property that could be purchased and sold.
  2. Around 1732, a man was captured and enslaved by the Fox Indians, also known as the Népissingué.
  3. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France’s Department of Stamps and Photographs (EST OF-4).
  4. He will be put to death if he commits a third offense.
  5. The Code Noir appears to have been utilized as customary law in New France, despite the fact that there is no evidence that it was legally declared in the region.
  6. Slavery was a regular practice in the region at the time of the invasion.
  7. 2 The great majority of them were indigenous (often referred to as Panis 3), but Black enslaved people were also there as a result of the transatlantic slave trade, which brought them to the region.
  8. A significant part of the transatlantic slave trade’s influence on the prevalence and function of slavery in Canadian history may be traced back to this trade.
  9. European merchants would set sail from Europe for Africa, transporting their wares aboard ships filled with cargo.
  10. The remaining enslaved people in the Americas would be sold, and the products created by slave labor would be transported back to Europe for resale.

Millions of African men and women were denied their fundamental human rights as a result of this thinking on the part of slavers. 4


A map depicting the route of the transatlantic slave trade. It was through this path that many millions of enslaved individuals were transported to the Americas, and some of those people were subsequently enslaved in Canada. Illustration of the deck plans of a late 18th-century British ship that was used to transport enslaved people from Africa to the Americas, courtesy of the CMHRIllustration of the deck plans of a late 18th-century British ship that was used to transport enslaved people from Africa to the Americas, courtesy of the CMHRI Photo courtesy of the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

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Slavery in the British North American colonies After the British capture of New France in 1763, slavery remained in place throughout the country. The region was later called British North America, and Black enslaved people took the place of Indigenous enslaved people in the process of replacement. When compared to the United States, enslaved persons made up a far smaller share of the population in British North America than they did in the United States. Because of this, some of the more heinous characteristics of slavery in America, such as the hiring of overseers and the horrifying practice of forcibly reproducing enslaved individuals, did not exist in what is now Canada.

  1. Because of the nature of slavery, its victims were deprived of their fundamental human rights and were subjected to exploitation.
  2. 5 Enslaved persons who were defiant or difficult were frequently subjected to harsh punishment.
  3. If I had the desire to hire troops, which is not the case, they would fail me, and Canadians will work for no one but themselves if they are given the opportunity.
  4. A letter from General James Murray, the British governor of Quebec, in 1763, seeking the employment of enslaved persons as labor.
  5. A copy of it was published in the Quebec Gazette in May 1785.
  6. Photo courtesy of the Quebec Gazette Enslaved individuals frequently expressed their opposition to the institution of slavery.
  7. According to historical records, in 1777, many enslaved persons managed to flee from British North America into the state of Vermont, which had abolished slavery the previous year.

A large number of enslaved persons attempted similar attempts to break free from their bonds.

This is something that has to be recognized in Canada.

Here we’re speaking of enslaved Africans.who were subjected to a variety of physical and psychological abuse while living in these Canadian colonies.

Indentured slavery has a long history in Canadian history.

Individuals who agreed to perform unpaid labor for a specified number of years in exchange for transportation, lodging, and food were considered to be indentured servants under the system of indentured servitude.

Indentured servants were allowed to leave at the conclusion of their contracts, and they were occasionally compensated with land and commodities.

The offspring of enslaved individuals were also considered property, resulting in slavery being passed down through generations.

When an enslaved man called Dimbo Suckles was liberated from slavery on Prince Edward Island in 1796, he did so only on the condition that he serve for his former master as an indentured servant for seven years, from 1796 to 1803.

9 The abolition of slavery in British North America began in the late 1700s.

It was on March 25, 1807, that the slave trade was banned throughout the British Empire, which included British North America, making it illegal to buy or sell human beings and effectively putting an end to much of the transatlantic slave trade.

By that time, certain Canadian provinces had already taken steps to prohibit or eliminate slavery.

In addition to making it unlawful to import enslaved individuals into Upper Canada, the legislation specified that children born to enslaved people would be released when they reached the age of 25.

7On Prince Edward Island, the Assembly declared the total abolition of slavery in 1825, nine years before the Imperial abolition of slavery in 1834.

A great chapter in Canadian history, the narrative of the Underground Railroad ought to be remembered and commemorated.

The fact that slavery existed in our country for more than two hundred years should not be forgotten, either. This narrative was produced based on research performed by Mallory Richard, a former researcher and project coordinator at the Centre for Medical Humanities and Research (CMHR).

  • 2Robin Winks, The Blacks in Canada: A History, second edition (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-University Queen’s Press, 1997), 9
  • 3Refers to the “Pawnee,” an Indigenous nation that inhabited the basin of the Missouri River. 1Charles G. Roland, “Slavery” in the Oxford Companion to Canadian History, 585
  • The Canadian Museum of History’s Virtual Museum of New France has sections on population and slavery (accessed on August 22nd, 2018)
  • And
  • 4James A. Rawley, The Transatlantic Slave Trade: A History (Dexter, MI: Thomson-Shore Inc., 2005), 7
  • 5Winks, The Blacks in Canada, 53
  • 6Ken Alexander and Avis Glaze, Towards Freedom: The African-Canadian Experience (Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1996), 29
  • 7 Slavery is prohibited from being introduced into the country further, and the duration of servitude contracts is limited. Upper Canada’s Statutes, number 33. The Archives of Ontario have a copy of George III, Cap. 7, 1793. Jim Hornby, Black Islanders: Prince Edward Island’s Historical Black Community (Charlottetown: Institute of Island Studies, 1991), p. 8. Jim Hornby, Black Islanders: Prince Edward Island’s Historical Black Community (Charlottetown: Institute of Island Studies, 1991), p. 8.

Explore Black Canadian history

Written by Matthew McRae In the unlikely event that you have never heard of Africville, you are not alone; the terrible narrative of this little Black town in Nova Scotia is not as well known as it ought to be.

Black sleeping car porters

Matthew McRae’s contribution The terrible narrative of this little Black town in Nova Scotia is not as well known as it should be, and you are not alone if you have never heard of Africville.

Black History in Canada – Library and Archives Canada

  • Investigations at the Library and Archives Canada
  • Investigations in published sources
  • Investigations at other institutions and on the internet

Since the seventeenth century, there has been a continual stream of Black people migrating into Canada from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the United States. It was an African called Mathieu de Coste who became the first known Black person to come in Canada when he arrived in 1608 to work as an interpreter for the governor of Acadia in his native Mi’kmaq language. During the 17th and 18th centuries, a few thousand Africans were transported to Canada as slaves. More than 3000 slaves and free Blacks who had stayed faithful to the British Crown were granted passage by the British government following the American Revolution.

  • When the Loyalist slave owners came to Canada, they brought with them a number of other Black slaves.
  • More than 30,000 slaves migrated to Canada via the Underground Railroad between 1793 and 1865, fearing for their safety in the United States following the enactment of the first Fugitive Slave Law in the country.
  • Many of them returned to the United States to participate in the American Civil War and then reunited with their families when the war ended.
  • Between 1858 and 1860, a second group of roughly 800 free Blacks from California moved to Vancouver Island, this time from the United States.
  • Between 1909 and 1911, about 1500 farmers from Oklahoma came to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, establishing themselves as farmers.
  • As a result, only a small number of Black people entered the country during the next few decades.

More than 2600 women were accepted as a result of this program. Because of the removal of a racially discriminatory immigration system by the Canadian government in 1967, Black immigration to the country increased considerably.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

The Library and Archives are two separate entities. Canada is home to a plethora of collections connected to Black people. The following are some of the documents and fonds that are available.

Port Roseway Associates, Muster Book of Free Blacks, Settlement of Birchtown, 1784 (MG 9 B9-14)

In 1783, during the American Revolution, the British and Loyalist armies were forced to abandon New York. In order to acquire new dwellings and to establish a new community in Nova Scotia, hundreds of Loyalist exiles banded together to organize the Port Roseway Associates in 1845. These Loyalists, along with their families, servants, and slaves, formed the settlement of Port Roseway, which was later called Shelburne. They were not the only ones. Birchtown was established by the free Blacks among the Loyalists as a distinct enclave from the rest of the settlement.

Refugees from the British Empire, 1782-1807- Port Roseway Associates

Ward Chipman, Muster Master’s Office (1777-1785) (MG 23 D1)

This fonds comprises muster rolls of Loyalists and their families who belonged to regiments that were dissolved and settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick during the American Revolution (volumes 24 to 27, microfilm C-9818). References are made to Black Loyalists, servants, and free Blacks throughout the text. All of the records have been indexed and digitized and are available in the following database: From 1777 until 1785, Ward Chipman served as Muster Master for Loyalists in the Maritime Provinces.

Book of Negroes (MG23 B1)

There are muster rolls of Loyalists and their families who belonged to regiments that were dissolved and settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick contained in this fonds (volumes 24 to 27, microfilm C-9818). Black Loyalists, servants, and free Blacks are all mentioned in passing. All of the records have been indexed and digitized and are available in the following databases: Ward Chipman’s Muster Master’s Office, 1777–1785: Loyalists in the Maritime Provinces.

William King Collection (MG 24 J14)

William King, who was born in Scotland, moved to Canada as a missionary for the Free Church of Scotland and became involved in the abolitionist movement. He founded the Elgin Settlement, which was intended for fugitive slaves from the United States of America. He also contributed in the establishment of a Black settlement in the vicinity of Chatham, Ontario. His memoirs, letters, and records connected to the Buxton Mission and Elgin Association are all included in the Miscellaneous materials, which date from 1836 to 1895.

More information and digital materials may be found by clicking on the links in the lower level descriptions.

Great Britain: Treasury Office (MG 15 T28, microfilmC-13523)

Several references to Black people in Nova Scotia may be found on the following pages:

  • An 1816 letter from G. Harrison to the Storekeeper General, in which he inquires about the distribution of supplies supplied to Halifax for the benefit of Black refugees on Melville Island (vol. 14, page 222), is included in this volume. A letter from G. Harrison to the Commissioners of the Navy on June 9, 1821, in which he expresses worry about the transportation of Black refugees from Halifax to Trinidad (vol. 19, page 225)
  • There is a letter written by G. Harrison on July 4, 1821, to the Commissioners of the Navy, in which he states that arrangements for the transportation of Black refugees from Halifax to Trinidad have been authorized (vol. 19, p. 279)

Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files (RG76)

From 1931 through 1949, the Canadian Pacific Railway requested the entrance of colored porters (Blacks) (volume 577, file 816222, parts 6-10, microfilms C-10652 and C-10653) Approximately 4,810 names of black immigrants from the United States who came to work as porters for the Canadian Pacific Railway corporation are contained in this collection. Domestics from Guadeloupe who were colored between 1910 and 1928 (volume 475, file 731832, microfilm C-10410) This file contains the names of 107 female immigrants from Guadeloupe who have applied to work for families in the Montreal area of Quebec.

In the following database, the names contained in these two files are indexed: Porters and domestics who came to Canada as immigrants between 1899 and 1949 If you come across a reference, consult the database’s section on how to get copies of the material.

Other documents or fonds

You may use Collection Search to look for other records. When conducting research in published sources, try using keywords such as those listed below. Alternately, you might try typing in a person, a location, or another subject. If you come across any references that are of interest to you, figure out how to gain access to the records.

Other online resources

  • Against Slavery in Canada
  • The Northern Star
  • The Anti-Slavery Movement in Canada


  • Among those who have contributed to this work are Jeremiah “Jerry” Jones, John Armstrong Howard, Canada’s first Black Olympian, the Jamaican Canadian Association and the role of women in the organization, railway sleeper car porters, and others. Oscar Peterson, Jackie Robinson, and the breaking down of the color barrier in baseball

Research in published sources

Advertisements for slaves were found in the newspapersoften. Many Canadian newspapers are available on microform at the Library and Archives Canada. Newspapers should be used to research the time leading up to the abolition of slavery in 1834.

  • The Nova Scotia Public Archives has published a documentary study on the establishment of black people in Nova Scotia between the War of 1812 and the establishment of responsible government. (OCLC 5148084
  • OCLC 5148084)
  • A genealogist’s guide to discovering your African-American ancestor: how to find and record your unique heritage, by Franklin Carter Smith
  • A genealogist’s guide to discovering your African-American ancestor: how to find and record your unique heritage, by Franklin Carter Smith
  • Joyce A. Pettigrew’s book, A safe haven: the tale of the Blacksettlers of Oxford County, is a must-read. The book African American genealogy: a bibliography and guide to sources, by Curt Bryan Witcher (OCLC 76800482) is also recommended. The Niagara Peninsula Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society has published coloured extracts from Anglican Church archives in Niagara Falls. (OCLC 35924916)
  • Joseph Mensah’s Black Canadians: History, Experiences, and Social Conditions (OCLC 35924916). In addition to Black genealogy, by Charles L. Blockson, and Black genesis: A resources book for African-American genealogy, by James Rose, the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Niagara Peninsula Branch has published Black heritage in Bertie Township, Welland County and Black genesis: A resources book for African-American genealogy. (OCLC 35924855)
  • Black heritage in Grantham Township, Lincoln County, by the Ontario Genealogical Society, Niagara Peninsula Branch
  • Black heritage in Grantham Township, Lincoln County, by the Ontario Genealogical Society, Niagara Peninsula Branch A Beginner’s Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree, by Tony Burroughs
  • Blacks in Canada: In Search of the Promise, by Francine Govia and Helen Lewis
  • And Blacks in Canada: In Search of the Promise, by Francine Govia and Helen Lewis. Collin A. Thomson’s Blacks in Deep Snow: African-American Pioneers in Canada (OCLC 21978075) is an example of this. (OCLC 4802063)
  • Leo W. Bertley’s Canada and its people of African heritage (OCLC 4802063). The OCLC number for this item is 3268346. A.G. Archibald was responsible for the deportation of Negroes from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone. Donna Beasley’s Family Pride: The Complete Reference to Tracing African-American Genealogy is a comprehensive guide to tracing African-American ancestors. (OCLC 35280690)
  • Catherine Slaney’s Family Secrets: Crossing the Color Line (OCLC 35280690)
  • A beginner’s guide to tracking down your African-American ancestry, written by David T. Thackery
  • Madeleine E. Mitchell’s Jamaican Ancestry: How to Find Out More and Daniel Gay’s Les Noirs du Québec, 1629-1900 are two books worth reading. 300245751 (OCLC 300245751)
  • Wisdom Tettey and Korbla P. Puplampu’s The African Diaspora in Canada: Negotiating Belonging (OCLC 62087262) is a book about the African Diaspora in Canada. According to the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s Black Loyalist Directory: African Americans in Exile after the American Revolution, African Americans lived in exile after the American Revolution. The Black Loyalists: the Hunt for the Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, 1783-1870 is a book written by James Walker on the search for the Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, 1783-1870. (OCLC 2552037)
  • James Walker’s The Blacks in Canada: A Study Guide (The Blacks in Canada: A Study Guide, OCLC 2552037). Trials and Triumphs: The Story of African-Canadians (OCLC 8668350)
  • Trials and Triumphs: The Story of African-Canadians (OCLC 8668350). Library of Congress Control Number: 25369646

Use the following search parameters to find books on Black people in Aurora, the library’s catalog: authors, titles, or topic phrases such as:

  • Slave/slavery
  • African/African-Canadian
  • Black/Black Canadian
  • Slave/slavery

Research at other institutions and online

  • African Canadian Online – Pioneers
  • African Nova Scotians in the Age of Slavery and Abolition
  • Africville Museum
  • Africville Story Map
  • AfriGeneas
  • Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia
  • African Canadian Online – Pioneers
  • African Canadian Online Black History Canada, the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre, the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, the Black Settlers of Alberta and Saskatchewan Historical Society, the British Columbia Black History Awareness Society, the Buxton National Historic SiteMuseum, and the Black Loyalist Heritage Society are just a few of the organizations that promote Black history. The Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of African-Americans in Chatham-Kent. Documenting the American South – Henry Bibb (The Black Abolitionist Papers, vol. 2, Canada, 1830-1865)
  • Documenting the American South – Henry Bibb Africans who were enslaved in Upper Canada Examining the Alvin McCurdy Collection’s representations of black history
  • A historic site and Underground Railroad Museum dedicated to John Freeman Walls
  • A Look Back, A Look Forward: Documenting the Heritage of African Nova Scotians
  • The New Brunswick Black History Society
  • The Ontario Black History Society
  • The Ontario Heritage Trust – Slavery to Freedom
  • The Black History of Owen Sound
  • Remembering Black Loyalists
  • Black Communities in Nova Scotia
  • Looking Back, Moving Forward: Documenting the Heritage of African Nova Scotians The Archives of Ontario has a collection of materials relating to black history. Slave life and slave law in Colonial Prince Edward Island, 1769-1825
  • The Black Canadian Experience in Ontario, 1834-1914: Flight, Freedom, and Foundation
  • The Caribbean GenWeb Project
  • The Underground Railroad Years: Canada in the International Arena
  • The Underground Railroad Years: Canada in the International Arena The Underground Railroad: Finding Freedom in the Niagara Region is an archival document. Archived

Underground Railroad

When describing a network of meeting spots, hidden routes, passages, and safehouses used by slaves in the United States to escape slave-holding states and seek refuge in northern states and Canada, the Underground Railroad was referred to as the Underground Railroad (UR). The underground railroad, which was established in the early 1800s and sponsored by persons active in the Abolitionist Movement, assisted thousands of slaves in their attempts to escape bondage. Between 1810 and 1850, it is estimated that 100,000 slaves escaped from bondage in the southern United States.

Facts, information and articles about the Underground Railroad

Aproximate year of birth: 1780


The beginnings of the American Civil War occurred around the year 1862.

Slaves Freed

Estimates range between 6,000 and 10,000.

Prominent Figures

Harriet Tubman is a historical figure. William Still is a well-known author and poet. Levi Coffin is a fictional character created by author Levi Coffin. John Fairfield is a well-known author.

Related Reading:

The Story of How Canada Became the Final Station on the Underground Railroad Harriet Tubman’s Legacy as a Freedom Fighter and a Spion is well documented.

The Beginnings Of the Underground Railroad

Even before the nineteenth century, it appears that a mechanism to assist runaways existed. In 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with the assistance provided to one of his escaped slaves by “a organization of Quakers, founded for such purposes.” The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers as they are more officially known, were among the first abolitionist organizations to emerge. Their influence may have played a role in Pennsylvania becoming the first state to abolish slavery, which was home to a large number of Quakers.

In recognition of his contributions, Levi is often referred to as the “president of the Underground Railroad.” In Fountain City, Ohio, on Ohio’s western border, the eight-room Indiana home they bought and used as a “station” before they came to Cincinnati has been preserved and is now a National Historic Landmark.

“Eliza” was one of the slaves who hid within it, and her narrative served as the inspiration for the character of the same name in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

The Underground Railroad Gets Its Name

Owen Brown, the father of radical abolitionist John Brown, was a member of the Underground Railroad in the state of New York during the Civil War. An unconfirmed narrative suggests that “Mammy Sally” designated the house where Abraham Lincoln’s future wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, grew up and served as a safe house where fugitives could receive food, but the account is doubtful. Routes of the Underground Railroad It was not until the early 1830s that the phrase “Underground Railroad” was first used.

Fugitives going by water or on genuine trains were occasionally provided with clothing so that they wouldn’t give themselves away by wearing their worn-out job attire.

Many of them continued on to Canada, where they could not be lawfully reclaimed by their rightful owners.

The slave or slaves were forced to flee from their masters, which was frequently done at night.

Conductors On The Railroad

A “conductor,” who pretended to be a slave, would sometimes accompany fugitives to a plantation in order to lead them on their journey. Harriet Tubman, a former slave who traveled to slave states 19 times and liberated more than 300 people, is one of the most well-known “conductors.” She used her shotgun to threaten death to any captives who lost heart and sought to return to slavery. The Underground Railroad’s operators faced their own set of risks as well. If someone living in the North was convicted of assisting fugitives in their escape, he or she could face fines of hundreds or even thousands of dollars, which was a significant sum at the time; however, in areas where abolitionism was strong, the “secret” railroad was openly operated, and no one was arrested.

His position as the most significant commander of the Underground Railroad in and around Albany grew as time went on.

However, in previous times of American history, the phrase “vigilance committee” generally refers to citizen organizations that took the law into their own hands, prosecuting and hanging those suspected of crimes when there was no local government or when they considered the local authority was corrupt or weak.

White males who were found assisting slaves in their escape were subjected to heavier punishments than white women, but both were likely to face at the very least incarceration.

The most severe punishments, such as hundreds of lashing with a whip, burning, or hanging, were reserved for any blacks who were discovered in the process of assisting fugitive fugitives on the loose.

The Civil War On The Horizon

Events such as the Missouri Compromise and the Dred Scott decision compelled more anti-slavery activists to take an active part in the effort to liberate slaves in the United States. After Abraham Lincoln was elected president, Southern states began to secede in December 1860, putting an end to the Union’s hopes of achieving independence from the United States. The Fugitive Slave Law is thought to have been the final slave returned to bondage under the supervision of abolitionist newspapers. Lucy Bagbe (later Sara Lucy Bagby Johnson) is considered to have been the last slave returned to bondage under the supervision of an abolitionist newspaper.

Her owner hunted her down and arrested her in December 1860.

Even the Cleveland Leader, a Republican publication that had previously taken a hard line against slavery and the Fugitive Slave Law, warned its readers that allowing the law to run its course “may be oil poured upon the waters of our nation’s troubles.” Lucy was returned to Ohio County, Virginia, and punished, but she was eventually freed after Union troops occupied the surrounding area.

The Reverse Underground Railroad

A “reverse Underground Railroad” arose in the northern states surrounding the Ohio River during the Civil War. The black men and women of those states, whether or not they had previously been slaves, were occasionally kidnapped and concealed in homes, barns, and other structures until they could be transported to the South and sold as slaves.

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