Early Black Settlement in Canada

People of African descent have lived in what is now called Canada since the 1600s. They came as explorers, as enslaved labourers, as migrants, as freedom-seekers, as refugees, and most recently as immigrants under Canada’s points system.

The shared history between Canada and the United States intricately ties the histories of Black Canadians and African Americans. Throughout the 1700s and into the early 1800s, the majority of people of African descent in Canada came from the United States. In the middle of the 19th century a large wave of African Americans sought freedom in Canada from slavery. At the same time free Blacks, men and women who were born free or received their freedom from enslavement, also decided to settle in Canada. ;xNLx; ;xNLx;While thousands of Blacks from the U.S. came to Canada seeking freedom and equality, they also faced racism in Canada. In many parts of Canada Black people were forced to live in segregated communities, given the poorest farm land, limited to service sector jobs, and in some provinces educated in segregated schools. In the early 1900s, Canada also brought in immigration policies to restrict migration of African Americans. ;xNLx; ;xNLx;Despite these obstacles, many Black communities survived and thrived. Today, Black communities in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario trace their roots back to these early settlements in Canada. This timeline covers 300 years of migration of people of African descent into Canada and some of the communities they established.;xNLx;

1605-06-01 00:00:00

Mathieu de Costa to accompany Samuel de Champlain

An African, Mathieu de Costa, is contracted to accompany Samuel de Champlain on an excursion to Acadia (Nova Scotia) in 1605.

1619-06-01 00:00:00

First enslaved Africans arrive in British North America (August 20, 1619)

The first shipload of enslaved Africans arrives in British North America through Jamestown, in what is now Virginia.

1628-06-01 00:00:00

First enslaved African arrives in New France

The first recorded African slave is purchased in New France.

1628-06-01 00:00:00

Slavery in Canada

Slavery was practised by a number of Aboriginal tribes in what is now Canada. Slavery by Europeans may have begun with the enslavement of about 2,000 Aboriginal men and women by Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real.

1685-06-01 00:00:00

Code Noir (March 1685)

Code Noir is decreed by France's King Louis XIV. This defines the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire.

1689-06-01 00:00:00

King Louis XIV Gives Slavery Limited Approval in New France (May 1, 1689)

King Louis XIV of France gave limited permission for the colonists of New France to keep African and Pawnee slaves.

1709-06-01 00:00:00

King Louis XIV Formally Authorizes Slavery in New France

King Louis XIV formally authorizes slavery in New France.

1734-06-01 00:00:00

Marie-Joseph Angélique (c 1705-1734)

Marie-Joseph Angélique was an enslaved Black woman owned by Thérèse de Couagne de Francheville in Montréal.

1760-06-01 00:00:00

England conquers New France

In 1759 and 1760 the English conquer New France. Under the Articles of Capitulation the French are allowed to keep their slaves (Article 47).

1761-07-01 00:00:00

Africville, Nova Scotia (1761-1970)

The first official record of Africville is 1761. The population is increased after the War of 1812 when Black Loyalists and Refugees arrive.

1775-06-01 00:00:00

American Revolutionary War (1775-1783)

The Thirteen Colonies fight against Britain for independence.

1776-06-01 00:00:00

Richard Pierpoint (c 1745-1837)

Richard Pierpoint was born around 1745 in the West African kingdom called Bondu (now Senegal).

1782-06-01 00:00:00

Sylvia helps defend Lunenburg

During the American Revolutionary War, American Revolutionary forces regularly invade Nova Scotia by both land and sea.

1783-01-01 00:00:00

Birchtown founded by Black Loyalists

Birchtown was founded in 1783 by Black Loyalists.

1783-06-01 00:00:00

Niagara, Ontario

When the soldiers of Butler's Rangers are disbanded in 1783, Richard Pierpoint and other Black soldiers begin farming near Niagara, making them some of the first Black settlers in the Niagara Region.

1783-06-01 00:00:00

Black Loyalists

After the American Revolutionary War, at least 3,500 Black Loyalists come to Canada.

1783-06-01 00:00:00

United Empire Loyalists come to Canada with enslaved Africans

After the American Revolutionary War, approximately 30,000 United Empire Loyalists leave the U.S. for Canada. They bring about 2,000 enslaved Africans with them.

1784-06-01 00:00:00

Black Islanders, P.E.I.

Sixteen enslaved Africans arrive with the United Empire Loyalists.

1784-06-01 00:00:00

First recorded race riot in North America

After the Revolutionary War, the Black Loyalists are among the first settlers in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.

1789-06-01 00:00:00

Northwest Ordinance

The Northwest Ordinance is signed into law. The Ordinance creates the Northwest Territory (the territory of Michigan). The law prohibits slavery in the new territory.

1792-06-01 00:00:00

The Black Loyalist Exodus (January 15, 1792)

Black Loyalists face discrimination in Nova Scotia and find it hard to support themselves.

1793-06-01 00:00:00

Anti-Slavery Act

Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe passes the Anti-Slavery Act which bans the importation of slaves. It also frees the children of current slaves once they reach age 25.

1793-06-01 00:00:00

Montreal, Quebec

Most of the slaves in Canada resided in Montreal.

1793-06-01 00:00:00

Chloë Cooley

Chloë Cooley, an enslaved girl in Upper Canada is beaten and bound by her owner and sold to an American.

1796-06-01 00:00:00

Maroons, Nova Scotia

On July 22, 1796, a group of 600 Maroons, from the Jamaican community of escaped slaves, arrive in Halifax.

1799-06-01 00:00:00

Town of York (Toronto), Ontario

In 1799 in the town of York fifteen Blacks were enumerated by the Census.

1799-06-01 00:00:00

Papineau Presents Citizens' Petition to Abolish Slavery in Lower Canada

In 1799, Joseph Papineau presents a citizens' petition asking the government to abolish slavery.

1807-06-01 00:00:00

Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade

In 1806, the British House of Lords passed an Act for the Abolition of The Slave Trade throughout all British colonies. This law becomes effective February 23, 1807. It doesn't ban slavery, but prohibits the transportation of African slaves across the Atlantic ocean.

1808-06-01 00:00:00

Importation of slaves prohibited

President Thomas Jefferson signs a bill approved by Congress the day before “to prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States.” It becomes effective January 1, 1808.

1812-06-01 00:00:00

War of 1812 (1812-1815)

Americans declare war on Britain and attack its closest colony - British North America.

1812-06-01 00:00:00

War of 1812 (1812-1815)

Americans declare war on Britain and attack the closest English colony – British North America.

1812-06-01 00:00:00

Coloured Corps

In the summer of 1812, Black Loyalist Richard Pierpoint petitions the government of Upper Canada to raise a company of Black troops to help protect the Niagara frontier.

1813-06-01 00:00:00

Black Refugees set sail

British Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane offers transportation for anyone wanting to leave the United States to settle in Nova Scotia.

1815-06-01 00:00:00

Oro, Ontario

In 1815, Lieutenant Governor Peregrine Maitland of Upper Canada began to offer Black veterans of the War of 1812 grants of land in the Township of Oro.

1815-06-01 00:00:00

Amherstburg, Ontario

Amherstburg is settled by Black veterans of the War of 1812 who grow tobacco.

1815-06-01 00:00:00

Loch Lomond, New Brunswick

In 1815, after escaping the war in Virginia and Maryland, three hundred Black Refugees arrive in Saint John harbour on the H.M.S Regulus. They eventually settle near Loch Lomond and Willow Grove.

1815-07-01 00:00:00

Windsor, Ontario

Escaped Black slaves from the southern U.S. as well as northern free Blacks begin settling in the Windsor area shortly after the War of 1812.

1819-06-01 00:00:00

John Beverley Robinson's Pronouncement

Building on Simcoe's early efforts to abolish slavery, the Attorney General of Upper Canada declares in 1819 that residence in Upper Canada makes all Africans free.

1820-07-01 00:00:00

Underground Railroad (1820s to 1861)

The Underground Railroad was a network of activists and safe houses that assisted runaway slaves in their journey toward freedom in the northern American states or in Canada.

1830-06-01 00:00:00

Oakville, Ontario

As early as 1830s, the Town of Oakville becomes one of the gateways to Canada for many African Americans. Ship captains assist stowaway African Americans escape to freedom aboard their ships.

1830-06-01 00:00:00

Josiah Henson (1789-1883)

Author. Abolitionist. Minister.

1830-06-01 00:00:00

Owen Sound, Ontario

From about 1830 to the end of the American Civil War, escaped slaves settled in the Village of Sydenham (Owen Sound), a terminal of the Underground Railroad.

1834-06-01 00:00:00

Slavery Abolished (August 1, 1834)

The British Imperial Act abolishes slavery across the British Empire. It is passed in 1833 and becomes effective August 1, 1834. The Act frees those who remained enslaved in British North America.

1834-06-01 00:00:00

Lucie and Thornton Blackburn

Conductors on the Underground Railroad. Entrepreneurs.

1834-06-01 00:00:00

Griffin House (Ancaster, Ontario)

Built around 1827, Griffin House is purchased by Enerals Griffin in 1834. Enerals and his wife Priscilla came to Canada to escape slavery in the United States. Griffin House is designated a National Historical Site in 2008.

1836-07-01 00:00:00

Wilson Ruffin Abbott (1801-1876)

Wilson Abbott was born in Virginia to a free Black woman and a Scottish-Irish father.

1841-06-01 00:00:00

Dawn Settlement, Ontario

In 1841, the former slave Josiah Henson buys 200 acres to found the Dawn Settlement, near present-day Dresden, Ontario.

1841-06-01 00:00:00

Uncle Tom's Cabin (Dresden, Ontario)

Built in 1841 by Josiah Henson, the cabin provides refuge to former slaves coming to Canada from the United States.

1848-06-01 00:00:00

Black Pioneers, Yukon

Blacks have lived in the Yukon since 1848, when Perro Lenoire worked for the Hudson's Bay Company as a hunter and labourer. By 1901, a community of 99 Blacks had settled in the Yukon Territory during the Klondike Gold Rush.

1848-06-01 00:00:00

Nazrey AME Church (Amherstburg, Ontario)

In 1848 Nazrey AME Church is built by African Americans who escaped slavery to serve their growing community.

Early Black Settlement in Canada

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