Overview

This undergraduate research project helps to document the antislavery connections in the Great Lakes region, and is part of the course work in History 2301E 2016-17 and History 3801E 2017-18 and 2018-19 at Huron University College.

As Canadians, it is sometimes easy for us to regard the system of racial slavery as something that happened a long time ago, in places far from us. But racial slavery was an institution in the Canadas. Canada also held an important place in the transatlantic movement against slavery.  By focusing on black abolitionist communities in Canada West, and their connections to antislavery movements in the United States and across the Atlantic world, our class projects seek to place the discussion of American racial slavery and American movements for racial justice in a global framework, while exploring that global movement through local history.

The projects involve work with community partners who participate in the process, and share an interest in the outcome of our research. The class projects provide the opportunity to conduct archival research, to use printed primary sources, and to explore the historiography of slavery and antislavery. They also provide an introduction to the emerging fields of public history and digital history.

The London Anti-Slavery Research Project:

This website documents a Community-based Research project about local Canadian links to the history of 19th-century antislavery movements. The project and website were created by American History students at Huron University College, in London, Ontario. Here you will find digitized primary sources, contextual research, and visual materials documenting the research process with our community partners.

The class work in 2014-15, and in 2015-16, began in the Oberlin College Archives. Oberlin activists were an important link in the abolitionist network that ran through 19th-century Canada, and we gained a sense of antislavery geography by retracing the footsteps of 19th-century antislavery activists. In 2015-16, the class is transcribing letters written by the black abolitionist and Baptist minister, Reverend William P. Newman, and we are researching other links between Newman, the British American Institute, and Oberlin College. This work expands the project of previous Huron students, who digitised and transcribed two large collections of letters written from 19th-century Canada by the Oberlin College graduate and antislavery missionary, the Reverend Hiram Wilson.  We also traveled to the Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site, where Newman, Wilson, and the black abolitionist, the Reverend Josiah Henson, collaborated in the 1840s.

Our research in 2014-15 centred on the history of the British Methodist Episcopal Church congregation, and the local community heritage project (Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation Project) to save the original frame church building from demolition.  Using a letter written to one of the early ministers at church, we were able to learn more about the members of the congregation in 1861, and more about London’s black abolitionist community. In addition, we transcribed letters, used census records, printed primary sources, and newspaper accounts to build up some background.  We have provided images of manuscript materials (used with kind permission of the Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, and the Oberlin College Archives, Oberlin OH), links to print sources, background essays, and examples of music related to antislavery resistance in the 19th-century.