Routes to Freedom explores the remarkable flight and life of enslaved Black woman
Ann Maria Jackson who fled to Toronto via the Underground Railroad, from Delaware with
seven of her children in 1857. The discussion revealed how Jackson, drawing on the resiliency
of her African foremothers built a life for her family during the middle decades of 19th century Toronto. The presentation also addressed the early history of Black people in Toronto, through the life of
Peggy Pompadour, a local woman who was enslaved by colonial administrator and Toronto City father Peter Russell. Both stories reveal the multidimensional nature of Toronto’s Black history:
for some, it was a place of freedom; for others, it was a place of oppression.
This talk took place on January 20, 2011.
Afua Cooper is a historian, author, and dub poet. She holds a Ph.D. in Canadian History
and African Diaspora, with an emphasis on Black communities in 19th century Ontario.
Visit Afua Cooper’s website for more information.
St. Lawrence Hall was built in 1850 as a space for public meetings, concerts, and exhibitions.
The City of Toronto restored the hall in 1967 to mark the national Centennial. Visit St. Lawrence Hall for more information.
Use it in the classroom
- Historical Thinking Concepts & Critical Thinking Challenges
- Concepts de la pensée historique et défis de pensée critique
- Archives of Ontario: Black history online exhibitions
- Owen Sound’s Black History
- Angelique and the Burning of Montreal
- Breaking the Chains: A New Narrative for Canada’s Role in the Underground Railroad(York University’s online exhibition aimed at K-12 curriculum concepts; includes links to biographies, primary sources, and lesson plans.)
- Learn more about Ann Marie Jackson’s life (via Breaking the Chains)
Museums & events
- Check the City of Toronto’s Black History Month for events
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin historic site (Dresden, ON)
- Search the Toronto Public Library’s programs for Black History Events
- The Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Toronto!, by Adrienne Shadd, Afua Cooper, Karolyn Smardz Frost (Toronto: Natural Heritage, 2002)
- I’ve Got a Home in the Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad, by Karolyn Smardz Frost (Toronto: Thomas Allen, 2007)
- The Hanging of Angelique: the Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montréal, by Afua Cooper (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2006)