Sir: Recently I met with T.J. Brown of the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society where I took my students who are enrolled in the Underground Railroad Pioneers Course at St. Clair College, Thames Campus. T.J. took us a tour of the Historical Society and surrounding area, which is rich in the history of the first Black settlers in this area.
We, in Chatham-Kent, are so lucky to have history that others from around the world come to see, yet we know so little of our past, which is in our own backyard. Did you know that Chatham once had six black doctors, or that Mary Ann Shadd Cary, whose bust is in Freedom Park on the corner of Wellington and Princess streets, was the first female editor of a newspaper in North America?
Abolitionist John Brown spoke in Chatham not long before he participated in the raid at Harper’s Ferry, which precipitated the Civil War.
Frederick Douglass visited the Elgin Settlement in North Buxton as he had heard that the area was a model settlement of former slaves.
And Abraham Lincoln sent people to North Buxton to study the settlement prior to the emancipation of the slaves in the US.
Artis Lane, a world-renowned artist who sculpted the bust of Mary Ann Shadd Cary in our very own Freedom Park and designed the Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to Rosa Parks, is from Chatham.
There is so much more to know, and I encourage all of you, including students in elementary and high school, to contact the C-K Black Historical Society, speak to T.J. Brown and become more informed about the rich history we seem to take for granted.