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Canadians have a lot to learn about this country’s history of slavery, experts say

Canadians have a lot to learn about this country’s history of slavery, experts say

Except now, Ontario has been the correct province to mark Emancipation Day, but this year participants of Parliament voted to designate it nationwide. The day acknowledges Aug. 1, 1834, when the British Empire abolished slavery. Experts say Canadians have noteworthy to learn about this country’s history of slavery.

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A carving by artist Bruce Jacquard depicts an enslaved woman named Jude being beaten by her owner. She died from her injuries in Nova Scotia in 1800. The carving is on display at the Yarmouth County Museum. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

WARNING: This story contains demanding details about slavery.

As Sharon Robart-Johnson walks around the Black history room at the Yarmouth County Museum, she aspects out paintings of Black educators, the first Black Nova Scotian to be part of the RCMP, and even a painting of herself, as the first individual to write a e book about Black individuals in the area. 

But she saves the one most dear to her for last. 

It’s a wooden carving of an enslaved woman named Jude being beaten by her owner’s son. 

Court records point to Jude died of her injuries on Dec. 28, 1800. She was 28.   

“The night time earlier than she died, she went into the pantry, as she was doing moderately often because she was being starved,” Robart-Johnson said in a recent interview at the museum in southwestern Nova Scotia. “She tried to steal a loaf of bread and a fragment of cheese.”

Her owners were charged with abolish but acquitted at trial. 

“I acquired very angry and even angrier restful after I learned that they acquired away with it. They literally acquired away with abolish,” said Robart-Johnson. Her first e book, Africa’s Younger individuals: A History of Blacks in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, involves a chapter on Jude.

The younger woman’s brutal trip is legal one example of this country’s shameful history of slavery, which experts say most Canadians know miniature about.

They hope this year that will start to change. 

Author Sharon Robart-Johnson holds a copy of her second e book, Jude and Diana, at the Yarmouth County Museum in southwestern Nova Scotia. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Emancipation Day acknowledges Aug. 1, 1834, when the British Empire abolished slavery, releasing around 800,000 individuals of African descent all by the British colonies, together with what’s now known as Canada.  

Except now, Ontario has been the correct province to mark the occasion, but this year participants of Parliament voted to designate it nationwide. The day is also being observed provincially in Nova Scotia for the first time. 

Robart-Johnson says she became so obsessed with Jude’s story, she released a second e book, a work of historical fiction titled Jude and Diana, chronicling the lives of Jude and her sister.

Information point to Jude was brought to Nova Scotia from New Jersey by her master, Frances Wood, when she was nine years customary. She was eventually offered to Maj. Samuel Andrews, a Loyalist leader who came to Nova Scotia from North Carolina in 1785.   

“I did now not know that individuals in Yarmouth had slaves, so that was a giant locate-opener for me,” said Robart-Johnson, who stumbled upon the files about Jude whereas researching her appreciate genealogy 28 years ago. 

Court records from the Nova Scotia Archives listing an enslaved woman named Jude ‘stealing in the kitchen.’ (Brian MacKay/CBC)

From the archives

At the Nova Scotia Archives, records point to advertisements for runaway slaves, payments of sale and court docket paperwork, all illustrating the province’s history with slavery. 

“For sale for a time frame of years,” reads one newspaper clipping from June 1800. “Aged 18 years, dependable natured, fond of adolescents and accustomed to both town and country work.” 

A newspaper clipping from June 1800 at the Nova Scotia Archives advertises a younger girl for sale. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

In 1750, there have been about 400 slaves among Halifax’s population of 3,000.  

Manager and archivist John MacLeod says two Nova Scotia judges in particular, Chief Justice Sampson Salter Blowers and Chief Justice Thomas Andrew Lumisden Strange, appeared to regain ways to rule in favour of freedom over persevered slave possession when cases were earlier than them in the early 1800s. Some historians have long gone so far as to call them abolitionists. 

MacLeod says it was seemingly because there was no legal framework to enhance slavery. 

“But the legislature also failed to sail to the step of banning it both,” he said. 

He aspects to a petition in the general public sequence. It reveals that in 1807, a staff of slave owners, largely Loyalists from Annapolis County who had been given some guarantees by the British Empire that they may carry their “property” with them, pushed back against the court docket choices. They signed their names, entire with the number of slaves they owned. 

A petition from the Nova Scotia Archives reveals that in 1807, a staff tried to accumulate the authorities to create legislation to give them more rights as slave owners. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

The same petition reveals slave owners signed their names and entered the number of slaves they owned. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

“The slave holders in Nova Scotia realized that their situation was turning into increasingly eroded by the courts,” said MacLeod. “And they petitioned the Home of Assembly for legislation that would give legal status or legal framework whereby they may continue to exercise what they saw as their property rights.” 

The legislation was offered a number of times but by no means passed.

Newly created Institute for the Glimpse of Canadian Slavery

Charmaine Nelson, professor of art history and founding director of the newly created Institute for the Glimpse of Canadian Slavery at the Nova Scotia Faculty of Art and Gain in Halifax, says or now not it is important to mark Emancipation Day.  

“It’s really a second for us to specialise in about what slavery was and what slavery was in Canada,” she said in an interview. 

She said whereas it may shock some that such an institute would be housed at an art faculty, art is actually the important thing to helping individuals understand this country’s command history with slavery. 

She says when asked what they know about transatlantic slavery and how they came to realize it, most individuals will cite Hollywood motion pictures such as LincolnAmistad12 Years a Slave, and Django Unchained.   

“The more recent ones are moderately accurate in phrases of the horrific and brutal nature of slavery,” she said. “But almost all of those representations coming out of Hollywood characterize American South slavery.” 

She says Canada’s history of slavery, largely written by white males, often takes an apologist locate, acknowledging that slavery happened here, but because there have been fewer slaves than in the American South or the Caribbean, that slave owners were by some means kinder and gentler. 

No longer accurate, she says. 

Charmaine Nelson is an art history professor and the founding director of the Institute for the Glimpse of Canadian Slavery at the Nova Scotia Faculty of Art and Gain in Halifax. (Meghan Tansey Whitton)

Individuals often associate slavery with thousands of individuals working on a plantation.

It failed to happen in Canada in the same way because of the climate and seasonal shifts that may now not sustain year-round agriculture. 

Nelson said enslaved individuals in Canada may smartly have harvested apples or corn, but they were also pressured to milk cows, groom horses, and in the case of ladies, breastfeed the adolescents of their white owners, to the detriment of their very appreciate adolescents.

She says Canadians overall are now not as educated about their country’s connection to slavery as Americans. 

“How can individuals know what they’ve by no means had an opportunity to learn?” she said. “And in case you are a Canadian who spent any time in our elementary or excessive faculty or faculty … this bid is merely now not in the curriculum.” 

Nelson hopes to exhaust the original institute, and the marking of Emancipation Day, as a leaping off point to change that. 

The general population is rarely always going to read academic literature, she said, so the way they often near to understand this form of history is by an art demonstrate, a painting or a movie. 

“So, with out the artists at the table, we’re by no means going to be able to educate a broader public about how profound and really world-transforming, sadly, that the 400-year institution of transatlantic slavery was,” she said. 

No longer every person embraces Emancipation Day

But for author Robart-Johnson, whose fourth great-grandfather was a runaway slave, the designation of Emancipation Day is too miniature, too late. 

“You can’t wait till almost 200 years and say it need to now not have happened,” she said.

She remains targeted on telling the personal stories of Jude and her sister.

“Because no one had heard them and no one would have listened anyway in the direction of the time,” she said. “So now their stories have been told.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories all by the Black neighborhood — examine out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


Canadians have a lot to learn about this country’s history of slavery, experts say