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Black History Month
Fertile moments in black farming history
Richard Pierpoint, a former slave from Senegal, won his freedom fighting with the British during the American Revolutionary War. In 1821, he established the Garafraxa Settlement, a black farming community of 10 families near Fergus, Ontario, and a terminus of the Underground Railroad.
Black pioneers set up a farming settlement 25 kilometres south of Owen Sound on land they were given after fighting in the War of 1812. In 1996, the township tried to change the name of the historical Negro Creek Road to Moggie Road after a 19th-century white settler. Local blacks were angry at this attempt to erase their collective experience. The original name remains.
Black veterans of the War of 1812 received 100-acre lots south of Georgian Bay, half the amount given to white veterans. But like much of the land granted to African Canadians, the soil was rocky and and many of the settlers were compelled to leave.
Josiah Henson, the slave who inspired Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, fled to Kent County in Upper Canada and in the 1830s fulfilled his vision of a self-sufficient settlement, Dawn, near Dresden, that included a labourers’ school for former slaves. The settlement exported black walnut lumber to the U.S. and Britain.
White Presbyterian minister William King (1812-1895) married a Louisiana woman and found himself the owner of slaves. Bringing them to Canada, he established an agricultural community based on tobacco and grains near Chatham where former slaves were given a high level of education.