February is Black History Month

CULE would like to acknowledge the contributions made to Canada by members of the black community over the centuries …

Black History 1600-1700

1605: First Black in Canada – The first named Black person to set foot on Canadian soil was Mathieu Da Costa, a free man who was hired as a translator for Samuel de Champlain’s 1605 excursion.

20 August 1619: BNA’s First Blacks Arrive at Jamestown – The first shipload of African slaves to reach British North America landed at Jamestown in 1619.

1628: Slave Boy, First Black Resident of New France – The first named enslaved African to reside in Canada was a six-year old boy, the property of Sir David Kirke. The child was sold several times, lastly to Father Paul Le Jeune, and was baptized Catholic and given the name Olivier Le Jeune.

March 1685: Code Noir – In 1685, Louis XIV’s Code Noir code permitted slavery for economic purposes only and established strict guidelines for the ownership and treatment of slaves. It was officially limited to the West Indies and, although it was never proclaimed in New France, it was used in customary law.

1 May 1689: Louis XIV Gives Slavery Limited Approval in New France – King Louis XIV of France gave limited permission for the colonists of New France to keep Black and Pawnee Indians slaves. The colonists had complained about the shortage of available servants and workers and appealed to the Crown for permission own slaves.

A Canadian Profile – Chloe Cooley

On March 14, 1793 Chloe Cooley, an enslaved Black woman in Queenston, Upper Canada, was bound and thrown in a boat to be taken across the river and sold in the United States. She resisted fiercely; Peter Martin, a free Black man, noticed her screams and struggles and brought a witness, William Grisley, to report the incident to Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe.

Simcoe supported the abolition of enslavement even before he came to Upper Canada, and used the Chloe Cooley incident as a catalyst to introduce the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada. The motion was opposed in the House of Assembly—some of its members were slave owners. But the government brokered a compromise and on July 9 the Upper Canada legislature passed “an Act to prevent the further introduction of slaves, and to limit the term of contract for servitude” in the province.

Although no enslaved persons in the province were freed outright, the act prohibited the importation of enslaved people into Upper Canada and allowed the gradual abolition of enslavement. It was the first legislation in the British Empire limiting enslavement and set the stage for the beginnings of the Underground Railroad

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