Black History Fun Fact Friday – Slave Patrols: A Brief History of American Policing

This post was originally published under another blog series Unfamiliar Faces: Lost to History. Due the current climate I have revised this post and re-categorized it under Black History Fun Facts.


Originally Published: July 14, 2015

Revised May 29, 2020

slave-patrols-police-origins

The tragic murder of George Floyd, who sadly joins the ranks of several unarmed black men killed by the police, has sparked outrage, protests, and unrest. Images and footage of the officer, Derek Chauvin (who had 18 prior complaints against him according to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs), kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he repeated the too familiar phrase, “I can’t breathe!” is both horrifying and heartbreaking.

In response to the looting taking place by protesters of Floyd’s death, American President Donald Trump went on to call the looters “Thugs,” commenting that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The phrase comes from a 1967 quote used by Miami’s police chief, Walter Headley, in 1967, when he addressed his department’s “crackdown on … slum hoodlums,” according to a United Press International article from the time.

From the killing of Emmett Till in 1955 that sparked the Civil Rights Movement, to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church killing those four little girls in Birmingham Alabama in 1963 (Addie Mae Collins, 14, Cynthia Wesley, 14, Carole Robertson, 14, and Carol Denise McNair, 11). From the 1965 Watts Riots that broke out over Marquette Frye, to the police officers who beat Rodney King in 1991 and the riots that broke out over their acquittal. From the killing of Trayvon Martin, Micheal Brown, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor and many others, Black people are frustrated and crying out for redemption.

Today, we look at the racists’ roots in American policing.

Slave Patrols had three functions: to chase, apprehend, and return the enslaved who had run away to their “owners,” to organize terror to deter slave-revolts and to maintain discipline for slave-workers who were subject to violence if they broke plantation rules. These organizations evolved into southern police departments whose job was to control the freed slaves who were now working as laborers and to enforce the Jim Crow segregation laws that denied freed people certain human rights.

“Early American police departments shared two primary characteristics: they were notoriously corrupt and flagrantly brutal. This should come as no surprise in that police were under the control of local politicians. The local political party ward leader in most cities appointed the police executive in charge of the ward leader’s neighborhood. The ward leader, also, most often was the neighborhood tavern owner, sometimes the neighborhood purveyor of gambling and prostitution, and usually the controlling influence over neighborhood youth gangs who were used to get out the vote and intimidate opposition party voters. In this system of vice, organized violence and political corruption it is inconceivable that the police could be anything but corrupt (Walker 1996).” –  Dr. Gary Potter

Slave Patrollers were white men who rode around on horseback carrying guns, rope, and whips, ready to capture the enslaved. Their job was also to enforce the pass system, a pass, or ticket, signed by the slave master that authorized the enslaved to travel. Without this pass, an enslaved person could be beaten, and beatings sometimes happened even when the person had a pass, eerily similar to black men and women who are beaten, choked, gunned down, and stepped on even when they have done nothing wrong.

In her book, Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, Sally Hadden writes, “mounted man presents an awesome figure, and the power and majesty of a group of men on horseback, at night, could terrify slaves into submission.” Many members of the black community still refer to large police vehicles as “patty-wagons,” a play on the former “paddyrollers,” which was also a nickname for Slave Patrols.

Run, nigger, run; the pateroller catch you,
Run, nigger, run, almost dawn.
Run, nigger, run; the pateroller catch you,
Run, nigger, run, almost dawn.

Source: Wolf Folklore Song – RUN NIGGER RUN, THE PATEROLLER CATCH YOU (RUN, NIGGER, RUN)  sung by Joe Pat| Also found in Randolph, Vol. II, #264; Brown, Vol. III, #457| Source: http://web.lyon.edu/wolfcollection/songs/patrun1287.html

As K. B. Turner  David Giacopassi  &  Margaret Vandiver remark in Ignoring the Past: Coverage of Slavery and Slave Patrols in Criminal Justice Texts, “the literature clearly establishes that a legally sanctioned law enforcement system existed in America before the Civil War for the express purpose of controlling the slave population and protecting the interests of slave owners. The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.”


For more Black History Fun Facts, click here!

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Anna M. Mangin

Born in October of 1854 in Louisiana, Anna invented a kitchen tool she called a pastry fork.

The system of patents for inventions was not easy for African Americans at the time. Enslaved people were not considered people, they were not US citizens, and the rights of the US constitution did not apply to them. Consider the Dred Scott Decision where enslaved Scott unsuccessfully sued for him and his family’s freedom (they were eventually freed on May 26, 1857). This made it difficult for even free blacks to secure patents on their inventions, making it easy for their work to be stolen or attributed to someone else.

Of all the inventions by African Americans, we can just about imagine how much more this contribution would be if full credit had been given to those who were not considered worthy to receive it. Consider the following inventions:

  • The Clock (Benjamin Banneker)
  • The Traffic Signal (Garret Morgan
  • The Ironing Board (Sarah Boone)
  • The Mailbox (Phillip Downing)
  • The Sanitary Belt/Maxi Pad Precursor (Beatrice Davidson Kenner)
  • The Artificial Heart Pacemaker Control Unit (Otis Boykin )
  • The Closed Circuit Television Security (leading to the home security system) Marie Van Brittan Brown
  • The Modern Home-Video Gaming Console (Gerald A. Lawson)

We can go on and on.

Anna’s story is special because she was one of few blacks to receive a patent for her invention of the pastry fork.*

The Pastry Fork was an older version of the wisp and other electronic mixers today as it automatically mixed without manual effort. This tool had many uses, including beating eggs, thickening foods, making butter, mashing potatoes, making salad dressings, and most pastry dough, which was difficult on the hands and wrists.

Anna filed an application for a patent of her Pastry Fork in July of 1891 and was awarded the patent on March 1, 1892.

*Martha Jones was the first black woman to obtain a US Patent.


Learn more black history by reading more articles on the Black History Fun Fact Friday page here. Have a black history fun fact of your own? Submit your article for a blog feature by emailing it in a Word Doc attachment to yecheilyah@yecheilyahysrayl.com. Read the submission guidelines here.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – The Short Family

This is a real-life case of living beyond the colored line. It starts when a black man named O’Day Short and his family moved to a racist area of Fontana, California, in 1945. Here’s a bit of history behind Fontana:

  • The Ku Klux Klan established its headquarters in Fontana.
  • KKK Grand Wizard George Pepper and White Aryan Resistance (WAR) leader Tom Metzger claimed Fontana and the Inland Empire as their California Eastern Territory for White Supremacy.
  • Hells Angels Biker Gang originated in Fontana
  • Hells Angels and Nazi Low Riders (NLR), flourished in the city of Fontana, with no consequences from the Fontana P.D.
  • Many incidents of discrimination and hate crimes were unsolved and poorly investigated

Fontana has a long history of racism and discriminatory policies, so it is no surprise that blacks were not allowed south of the area. The saying went: “Base Line is the Race Line.” Southern Fontana can be best described as a “Sun-down town,” towns blacks were not allowed after dark. When the sun went down, any black person found in a “Sundown Town,” risked lynching. Read more about Sundown Towns in an older post here.

Carol Ann and Barry Short, along with their parents Helen and O’Day Short, died in a suspicious fire on Dec. 16, 1945, after crossing the color line in Fontana. | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

When O’Day Short, his wife, and two children moved onto land in an all-white area, neighbors threatened them to leave that neighborhood and occupy one of the ghetto neighborhoods where the town allowed blacks to live.

One interesting thing about the Short family is that they were fair-skinned and many believe this is how they got to purchase the property in the first place. O’Day moved his family into the half-finished home. It is said the man who sold him the land where the house was being built did not know he was black.

When people complained, O’Day got a visit from the sheriff to leave the property. The Sheriff offered to buy the house back, but O’Day refused. The sheriff warned that the “vigilante committee,” will not be pleased. They recorded the visit by the Sheriff in the Sheriff’s office in San Bernardino. According to the report, Short described the threats to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I). On December 6, 1945, Short also reported the threats to the Los Angeles Sentinel, an African American Newspaper.

On, December 16, 1945, not even a full month after the Short’s moved in and ten days after the reports, the Short home exploded in fire, the family inside.

Helen Short, 35, and her daughters Barry, 9, and Carol Ann, 7 died.

O’Day, 40, lived long enough to be taken to the hospital. A month later, on January 22, 1946, he also died.

They have linked the cause of the fire to an oil lamp O’Day was lighting when the tragedy occurred. The interesting thing about these reports is they didn’t mention that the Shorts were black, not in 1946 or later when the story resurfaced.

The NAACP hired an arson investigator later to investigate the story. The investigator reported that the kerosene lamp was found and almost intact, determining the fire was set, from the exterior.

I decided the Short Family would be the subject of this week’s fun fact because of the limited information that can be found on them. It was many years later before the NAACP launched their investigation and people even knew their story.


Read more Black History Fun Facts here.

Read  Stella: Beyond the Colored Line, my historical fiction account of what life was like for blacks beyond the colored line here.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Beyond Selma: The Civil Rights Movement in Jacksonville, Florida by KE Garland

When you think of the civil rights movement, what cities come to mind? Mobile? Birmingham? Atlanta? some place, Mississippi? How about Jacksonville, Florida? Probably not, but this southern city and its leaders were just as influential as Selma.

I found this out four years ago, when I posted this photo to my blog.

A fellow blogger noticed the background and sent it to her friend, Rodney L. Hurst Sr. Mr. Hurst contacted me about purchasing a copy and explained the meaning of the sign behind the gentlemen’s heads.

That sign is actually a historic site marker commemorating an important civil rights event in Jacksonville called, Ax Handle Saturday.

I was excited to hear about this little-known Black history fact and asked Mr. Hurst to a breakfast interview to understand more.

KG: Can you describe a little bit about what Ax Handle Saturday was and what happened? 

RH: I was president of the Youth Council NAACP and I led the sit-ins at the ripe old age of sixteen. My mentor was a guy named Rutledge Pearson.

KG: A school is named after him?

RH: Yes. One school is named after him. In fact, he and Earl Johnson were inducted into the Civil Rights Hall of Fame earlier this month (2016) in Tallahassee. He taught me eighth-grade American history. When I went to his class, he told me about the textbook and had other class members to talk about the textbook and then he said leave it home.

Mr. Pearson would not teach American history from the slanted and racist viewpoint of white textbook authors and historians. Our study of American history did not revolve around a book that only had the names of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. We studied John Hope Franklin, Althea Gibson, and Thurgood Marshall.

The first book report I did was on a guy named Toussaint Louverture, who fast became one of my favorites. He led the only successful slave revolt in this hemisphere, eventually became the Father of Haiti, and because of what he was able to do in Central America in fighting Napoleon, and controlling the shipping routes, Napoleon had to sell Louisiana territory to this country. You will never read his name in an American history book and he is inextricably bound to the history of this country.

In Mr. Pearson’s history class, it was Black history every day in his class. He also said, freedom is not free; if you’re not part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. He encouraged us to join the Youth Council of NAACP. American history teacher in an eighth-grade class encouraging his students to join the Youth Council NAACP?

KG: You would get fired today doing that. 

RH: Sure. And I joined when I was age 11, became president when I was 15, and led the sit-ins when I was 16. The sit-ins in Jacksonville were led by high-school students, which is one of the reasons we did it during the summer, as opposed to college students who were able to do it year-round.

We sat in Woolworth’s, where the federal courthouse is now. We sat in at the lunch counters: Kress, Woolworths, Grants, and McCory’s, which were downtown stores. And every downtown department store had a white lunch counter. Some had colored lunch counters, like Woolworths, which was at the back of the store. Others didn’t have colored lunch counters, but you would go to the end of the white lunch counter to order.

KG: But you couldn’t sit down?

RH: You couldn’t sit down. If the waitresses would come and take your order, then okay. So, we said, “No!” During my senior year we sat in. We sat in for two weeks. Woolworths closed the lunch counter. There were whites who stood behind us yelling, jungle bunny, nigger, go back to Africa ‘cause they couldn’t get their fresh lunches.

Two weeks later on August 27th, we were sitting in at Grants, which was on the corner of Adams and Main Street. And there were other incidents leading up to that. We had a white student, Parker, who joined us from Florida State (University) and the whites who were behind us thought he was the leader. Some white construction workers were standing behind him with big construction tools and these guys picked him up and formed a circle around him and walked him out to safety. All this time there were no police in downtown Jacksonville.

One guy had whittled off the end of his walking cane and would walk behind each of us and stuck all of us in the back with his walking cane. Again, no police. When we were attacked, we were attacked by 200 white men with ax handles and baseball bats. Black downtown was attacked. If you were white and tried to protect those Blacks downtown, you were attacked, too. When the word finally got out, then police came from everywhere.

Mr. Hurst described what happened to Parker, the white FSU student who supported the sit-ins and also Leander Shaw, Florida Supreme Court judge’s role in enacting justice. The details are outlined in his historical memoir It Was Never about a Hot Dog and a Coke! 

But I want to stop here and emphasize a few points about meeting and talking with Mr. Hurst.

Understanding Black history in your city is important. I’m not from Jacksonville, but I’ve lived here for approximately 20 years. Prior to our happenstance meeting, I’d never heard of Rodney L. Hurst Sr. Subsequently, before our conversation, I was ignorant to the role Jacksonville played in the Movement. I’d heard of Rutledge Pearson Elementary School, but I didn’t know the significance of the person for whom it was named. I wonder if the 95% Black student population knows the rich history to which they’re connected?

Living history is important. Ax Handle Saturday occurred August 27, 1960. That’s 60 years ago. Mr. Hurst is old enough to be my father, not my grandfather or great-grandfather, my father. Sometimes, grainy documentaries make racial oppression seem as if it was eons ago. My conversation with Mr. Hurst reminded me that it was not. Luckily for the K-12 and college students he speaks to, he’s able to authenticate a perspective of a time period that is linked to our country’s history.

Teacher autonomy is important. As a former high-school English teacher, I have to highlight the autonomy teachers had in the 60s. Mr. Hurst’s history teacher was able to make an informed decision about his students and what resources they needed in order to be successful, in not only understanding history in America, but also in transforming their communities. Mr. Hurst was directly influenced by Rutledge’s off-script lessons and push to join an organization specifically with their best interests at heart. Hurst possibly would have never been a part of Ax Handle Saturday had Rutledge stuck to a scripted curriculum.

The takeaways from our interview are endless. But if nothing else, I hope these words inspire you to learn more about the influential Black people in your area because, after all, Black history is American history.


Dr. KE Garland
Katherin is a First Place Royal Palms Literary Award winning writer for Creative Nonfiction. Her work has been featured in the South Florida TimesTalking Soup and For Harriet. She typically writes in order to inspire social change. Other examples of her work can be found on her personal blog.
 
Website: kegarland.com
Instagram: kegarland
Twitter: @kegarland

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Benjamin Banneker: Time Well Spent by Keyshawn McMiller

Today’s Black History Fun Fact Friday is from our special guest writer, Keyshawn McMiller. McMiller is a Senior Social Work major at Florida A&M University, and a current two-time published author (Ideals From A Young Black Introvert). Keyshawn aspires to one day, become a licensed counselor and ultimately, open the minds of traditional minority communities to the advantages of professional self-help.


The next time you ponder the great polymaths of the world such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, be sure to include another prominent Renaissance Man in Benjamin Banneker. A free-status African American raised on a Maryland farm that would eventually be bequeathed to him, Banneker was fortunate enough to attend a Quaker school. Though, he was primarily self-educated, relying on loaned books to learn the bulk of his skills. While in his 20’s, his knack for mathematics was demonstrated as he constructed a working wooden clock based on studying pocket watches. This accomplishment would only be the beginning of Banneker’s successes, as an interest in astronomy brought on by Quaker Astronomer, George Elliott, led him to predict a 1789 solar eclipse accurately.

As he matured, the Black Excellence of Benjamin Banneker was only magnified as he eventually became a prominent abolitionist and land surveyor near the end of his life. During this period, Banneker wrote future U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson, a letter in 1791 asking for improved living conditions for his people. In this same letter, he also sent drafts of various almanacs for the states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Amazingly, this draft would eventually be published thanks in part to Thomas Jefferson’s approval. Perhaps Banneker’s most significant achievement came about as he surveyed the land that would eventually become the current domain for the United States’ capital in Washington, D.C.

Despite Benjamin Banneker passing on in 1806, approximately 57 years before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, his legacy lives on. His name is included in several institutions, including The Benjamin Banneker buildings housed at Florida A&M University. At the notice of his passing, an obituary was published in the Federal Gazette with the quote, “Mr. Banneker is a prominent instance to prove that a descendant of Africa is susceptible of as great mental improvement and deep knowledge into the mysteries of nature as that of any other nation.”

Sources Cited

https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/science-and-technology/mathematics-          biographies/benjamin-banneker

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Benjamin-Banneker

https://www.biography.com/scientist/benjamin-banneker

https://www.famu.edu/index.cfm?blackhistory&BenjaminBanneker


Copyright © 2020. Keyshawn Miller

Keyshawn McMiller is a Senior Social Work major at Florida A&M University. A current two-time published author with “Ideals From A Young Black Introvert” and “Winnas, Not N*ggas,” Keyshawn is on a mission to use his gifts of writing to inspire the next generation to trade who they are for what they can become.

Instagram: @youngblack_introvert

LinkedIn: Keyshawn McMiller

Other Literary Works

  • Ideals From A Young Black Introvert: A Mini-Guide to a Better Life (available on Amazon)
  • Winnas, Not N*ggas: A Black Male’s Path to a King’s Mentality
  • King’s Mentality (poem)
  • Individual (poem)

Black History Fun Fact Friday: What Hollywood Left out the Harriet Movie

I did not intend on writing about this today but then…

I saw the Harriet movie.

Yep. I went to see it.

I know many are protesting the film, but I don’t jump on bandwagons. I wanted to see it for myself to develop my own opinion. I also knew I wanted to write about it.

There are some truths, such as her being referred to as Moses. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of inaccuracies. The movie is Hollywoodish and leaves a lot out. In an interview, I heard the script was written twenty years ago, so that may have something to do with it. In any case, if you are planning to see it, here are some things you may want to know.

  • Harriet Tubman never had a friend named Marie Buchanon.
  • There was never a Black Bounty Hunter named Bigger Long after Harriet Tubman. The same is true of the Brodesses son. They did have a son (Jonathan) but little is known about him. His role in the movie is made up.

While “Bigger Long” is a fictional character, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Black trackers existed and were active during slavery. I think it is vital that as we are striving for historical accuracy, we are not so “Pro-Black” that we forget that a lot of our own people sold us out, and continue to sell us out. While Bigger Long may not have been a real person in Harriet’s life, there were black slave catchers. The movie, it seemed to me, had a lot of ‘women vs. men’ undertones. Not only was Bigger Long the sole antagonist against Harriet (even more so than the Brodesses, son), he was also the one responsible for the death of one of the Black women in the most diabolical, sinister, and brutal way.

The William Still character is based on a real historical figure. Still was a black abolitionist based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, businessman, writer, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. In the movie, he was over-the-top with his reactions to Harriet’s return from the missions. Holding his hand to his chest, spinning Harriet around, and at one point, he even falls out of a chair. Some people laughed, but I didn’t find it funny. To me, it made him look like a bufoon.

The Black men in this movie seemed weak to me. I worry this was intentional. Hollywood has a habit of showing black men as less capable when contrasted against the black woman’s strength. Rarely is there a balance to showing black couples as equally competent. The imaginative Marie shows Harriet how to shoot a gun and helps her in her cause. Harriet was a warrior but I am certain the surrounding men weren’t that simple-minded and faithless.

  • Tubman didn’t change her name when she reached freedom. She changed it before then, around the time of her marriage, possibly to honor her mother.
  • Three of Tubman’s sisters were sold, not just one.
  • Two of Tubman’s brothers, Ben and Harry, accompanied her (1) they went with her initially, at the onset of her escape not later as depicted in the film (2) after a notice was published in the Cambridge Democrat offering a reward for her return, Harry and Ben had second thoughts and returned to the plantation so she made the voyage alone.
  • Tubman had spells, dream-states, and visions (I believe she was deeply spiritual, her spells were my inspiration for Nora’s spells in Renaissance), but she also endured seizures, severe headaches, and narcoleptic episodes for the rest of her life from the hit to the head.

This next point wasn’t in the movie but since we are talking about Harriet Tubman I think it’s important to mention.

The Fake Quote:

It’s a good quote and a powerful one. I wish I could say it belonged to Harriet but with every source I checked there’s no documented, historical proof that Harriet Tubman ever said:

“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

According to Africacheck.org, The Maxwell Perspective, and Snopes, there are a few possible origins of the quote’s attribution to Harriet:

  • The confusion began when feminist writer Robin Morgan updated her 1970 essay “Goodbye to All That” during the 2008 US Democratic Party’s primary presidential candidate race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Morgan supported Clinton, and in the essay challenged other women who did not. She wrote: “Let a statement by the magnificent Harriet Tubman stand as reply. When asked how she managed to save hundreds of enslaved African Americans via the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, she replied bitterly, ‘I could have saved thousands – if only I’d been able to convince them they were slaves.’” The implication was that women who didn’t support Clinton were similarly enslaved, and didn’t know it.
  • One expert was Milton Sernett, professor emeritus of history and African American studies at Maxwell School“My impression is that this is a late 20th century quote from a fictionalised account of Tubman’s life,” Sernett told history blogger Ralph Luker, who first queried the quote.
  • More than this, at meetings in 1858 and 1859 Tubman repeatedly said she had personally rescued 50 to 60 people from slavery. So she would never have said she “freed a thousand slaves”.

A quote that has historical proof, and that has been proven to come from her that you can use:

“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” 

– Harriet Tubman at a suffrage convention, NY, 1896.

“During public and private meetings between 1858 and 1859, Tubman repeatedly told people that she had rescued 50 to 60 people in 8 or 9 trips (this was before her very last mission, in December 1860, when she brought away seven people.) Sarah Bradford exaggerated the numbers in her 1868 biography. Bradford never said that Tubman gave her those numbers; instead, Bradford estimated that it was the number. Other friends who were close to Tubman contradicted those numbers. Tubman also instructed another 70 or so freedom seekers who found their way to freedom on their own”

http://www.harriettubmanbiography.com/harriet-tubman-myths-and-facts.html

Is it possible Tubman freed far more than what is documented even if only through instruction? Absolutely, but we have no proof she said she freed a thousand and could have freed a thousand more.

“My impression is that this is a late 20th-century quote from a fictionalized account of Tubman’s life. “Whoever wishes to use the dubious quote as a political zinger ought to cite a reliable source.”  – Milton Sernett, Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History

A few more things not addressed in the movie:

  • Tubman’s time as a Union spy (touched on a little at the end of the film), nurse, and cook.
  • Her 1869 marriage to Nelson Davis—a soldier, some 20 years her junior—and the couple’s 1874 adoption of a baby girl named Gertie
  • Her work as a suffragist,
  • Neurosurgery undertaken to address her decades-old brain injury.
  • Her financial hardship later in life.
  • The opening of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly in 1908.

Now, the movie wasn’t a total fail for me. There are some things I liked that are worth mentioning.

I loved the show of Harriet’s spirituality, which I do not equate to anything Christian. Her reliance on her faith, praying, and praising during difficult times. I loved the show of her hands raised and open, historically how we (Israelites/Blacks/AFAM) prayed. Harriet’s spiritual intuition was a beautiful show of faith and her belief that the Almighty was central in guiding her in her journey.

Should you see the film? That is up to you. I will caution that if you plan to bring your children, print this post out (or another fact sheet you’ve vetted), and use it as a reference so they can properly discern the facts in the movie from the fiction.


Check out more Black History Fun Facts here.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Mathieu de Costa

Me and Hubby had a wonderful time on our vacation. It’s been a long time since we’ve been out of the country, so it was refreshing to breathe another air. Canada is rich with Black history and many Black Canadians trace their ancestry to the so-called African American in America as the Underground Railroad brought tens of thousands of fugitive slaves to Canada. While many of these returned to the United States after emancipation, a significant population remained, largely in Southern Ontario, widely scattered in the country and the city, including Toronto.

Mathieu Da Costa (Groupe CNW/Postes Canada)

The first recorded (recorded being the key word here…I am sure there were others, but this is the first record. The first known black person to live in Canada is said to have been a slave from Madagascar named Olivier Le Jeune) free Black person in Canada was a Black man named Mathieu de Costa. He was a free man who spoke several languages (among them French, Dutch, Portuguese and a mixture of French-Spanish dialect and First Nations languages) and is remembered as a skilled interpreter and the first man of African heritage to visit and live in Canada. He lived in Port Royal (Nova Scotia) for a short time, and a plaque to honor his life and time spent there has been placed on a monument at the Port-Royal National Historical Site. A school in Toronto, and a street in Montreal and Quebec City have been named after him. Because of his ability to speak several languages, it is said that he helped to bridge the gap between Europeans and Natives living along the Canadian Atlantic Coast to live peacefully.

Hubby and I at an Ethiopian Restaurant in downtown Toronto Canada.

As a group, black people arrived in Canada in several waves. We are planning a return trip this winter to explore Canada’s Black history that we did not have the time to explore this trip such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site and Buxton National Historic Site, in Chatham-Kent, Ontario. (It was about 3 hours from where we were so we didn’t have time to visit this round). If you remember, we touched on Josiah Henson in the truth about Uncle Tom post here. In 1842 former fugitive slave Josiah Henson established the Dawn Settlement, a center for education, training, and community planning. With financial backing from American abolitionists, Dawn became a diverse settlement featuring a school, brickyard, sawmill, farmland, and profitable lumber industry. “At its peak, about 500 people lived at the Dawn Settlement. Henson purchased 200 acres of land adjacent to the community, where his family lived.” (Ontario Heritage Trust) The Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site is an open-air museum and African American history center near Dresden, Ontario, Canada, that includes the home of Josiah Henson. While the development of administrative problems and the school closure in 1868 caused many Blacks to abandon the land (some going back to America when slavery ended and some spreading out throughout Toronto), Josiah and his wife Nancy lived on the land the rest of their lives.

Although we didn’t get to visit these sites, we visited Markham, Woodstock, Orville, and Toronto and got some much-needed rest. My goal for this trip was to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new. On this trip I:

  • Got my locs retwisted before leaving (something I don’t usually do. I like my natural do, but this was about being different sooo)

 

  • Stayed with friends on seven acres of land in a big country house instead of a hotel.

 

  • Ate largely vegetarian (except for the curry chicken and shawarma. Shawarma is a Middle Eastern dish of sliced meat and vegetables wrapped in a cone-shaped bread and roasted. It is basically like one HUGE burrito. Also Jamaican Porridge is delicious. I’ll replace my oatmeal with it any day).

 

  • Showered in well water

 

  • Used Cinnamon, sweet milk and a touch of vanilla in my coffee instead of my usual French Vanilla Creamer

 

  • Drank no alcohol

 

  • Splurged on something cute without worrying over it (because I’m cheap). I just paid really fast before I changed my mind. In fact, before leaving the store I went into the dressing room and changed, wearing the pants and earrings home.

Peace and hair grease!

We had an amazing time but it sure does feels good to be back (nothing like being able to boo-boo in your own toilet and sleep in your own bed). Be sure to check out other fun facts on the Black History Fun Fact Friday page here.