The Blackburn’s: Historical Agents of Social Change
With a heavy volume of stories found in Canada’s historical past, ones that capture the eyes of many are those surrounding the bravery exhibited by the Black individuals who were victims of slavery. Those same people who after they had survived, became productive members of a society, who had tried to diminished their race. Examples of this notion were, Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, who continue to remain a Black couple that has illustrated impeccable fortitude throughout their lifetime. Their ability to defy all odds by surmounting obstacles in their path towards freedom proves that with characteristics such as determination, one can define Canadian black heritage.
Born in 1812, Thornton Blackburn was raised in Washington, Kentucky where black enslavement had been predominant in both Canada and United States. Indeed, he had met his wife, Lucie, through his transportation to Louisville. Debilitated from the exposure to battery and malnourishment, the Blackburn’s escaped. Forged freedom documents and unsuspicious attire are tactics exhibited by the couple to reach Michigan in 18311.
In 1833, the Blackburn’s were arrested by slave catchers under the Fugitive Slave Act. Their detention had sparked society uproar, which led to the phenomenon that was the “Blackburn Riots.”1 African-Americans in Detroit, campaigned for their release through protests, and when they were ignored; they helped the Blackburn’s reached the comfort of Upper Canada. However, later Americans had demanded for the return of the Blackburn’s. John Calbourne and other Canadian abolitionists neglected those penned guidelines and allocated that their unwillingness to hand over the citizens was that the Blackburn’s had committed no capital crime . This case, therefore, set the foundation for extraditions laws in Canada. Presently, the deportation of any person can occur if there is a substantial amount of evidence and if the crime is an offence in both Canada and the petitioning country .
The Blackburn’s journey continued when they resettled in Toronto and extended their anti-racial oppression endeavors. Their participation in the Underground Railway proved their heroic nature as they rented a multitude of homes to many Black fugitives . Moreover, though illiterate, Thornton rocked the nation with the invention of the taxicab in Upper Canada. With the building of a horse carriage that seated four passengers, he was able to form Toronto’s first taxicab business venture called “The City.” The Blackburn’s conveyed their commitment to civil rights with their participation in many anti-black racism organizations such as the “North American Convention of Colored Freemen” .
Parks Canada currently holds a plaque that honors the Blackburn's6. A richly deserved accolade, as they have help shaped black identity in Canada. Their ability to escape slavery with daring prowess, and influence the Canadian government with new deportation laws, allows for the present generation to gain confidence that they can surmount any sorrows, concerning racial inequality. The Blackburn’s illustrated through their survival story, that they were going to be proud of their race and not conform to the norms of society. Thus, with Black drivers realizing that they are more likely to be stopped by the police; they could use this story as a motivation to fight for reformation of law enforcement practices.
The Blackburn’s dexterity to assist Black Canadians through their involvement with the Underground Railway illustrates their creation of a tight-knit community; where individuals look out for one another. It represents that the media is not accurate with their depictions of black youths engaging in violent battles; as our predecessors like the Blackburn's have proven that positive relations are part of the fundamental values of black culture. Thornton's design of the taxicab, proved to be influential, as his white counterparts must have been surprised, that a man unable to read could concoct such a useful vehicle. He successfully changed the previous narrative, that a black person, is inadequate to contribute to society because they possess a low intelligence quotient (IQ). Stories like the Blackburn’s influences black adolescents to offer their talents, as those can change the lives of many.
For society to reached prosperity, there must be a desire to achieve cognitive consistency. Specifically, there must be a will to eradicate racism and compute diversity, and then our actions need to support said belief. The Blackburn’s were not suffering from cognitive dissonance, as shown through their resiliency and contributions. The contentious question now is, what can be done to continue their work? An inquiry, with an answer that only an individual can formulate, as long as it is done with care like the Blackburn’s.
Frost, Karolyn Smardz. "Escaped Slaves Helped Build T.O. | Toronto Star." Thestar.Com, 2007, https://www.thestar.com/news/2007/02/11/escaped_slaves_helped_build_to.html. Sadlier, Rosemary. "BLACK IN TORONTO: The Blackburns Escaped The U.S. For New Life In Canada | Insidetoronto.Com." Insidetoronto.Com, 2016, https://www.insidetoronto.com/community-story/6959978-black-in-toronto-the-blackburns-escaped-the-u-s-for-new-life-in-canada/. "Thornton And Lucie Blackburn Historical Plaque." Torontoplaques.Com, http://torontoplaques.com/Pages/Thornton_And_Lucie_Blackburn1.html. Shelton, Jim. "Yale Scholar Devotes Her Career To The Tale Of Two Escaped Slaves." New Haven Register, 2013, http://www.nhregister.com/connecticut/article/Yale-scholar-devotes-her-career-to-the-tale-of-11421962.php. Sylvester, Erin. "Now And Then: Thornton And Lucie Blackburn." Torontoist, 2016, https://torontoist.com/2016/02/now-and-then-thornton-and-lucie-blackburn/. "Extradition Requests To Canada." Canada.Justice.Gc.Ca, http://canada.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/emla-eej/tocan-aucan.html.