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Saturday, August 13, 2022
Museum documentary highlights unique figure from Black history

Julia Sacco

Special to The Lake Report

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum’s latest documentary club discussion brought a unique figure in Black history to the spotlight.

The Zoom meeting on Feb. 5 led by Barbara (Babs) Worthy brought forth community discussion on a documentary from The Canadians: Biographies of a Nation titled “Rose Fortune.”

Fortune was a Black Loyalist and the child of runaway slaves. The family settled in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.

In Canada, she was an entrepreneur who worked as a baggage carrier and ran a “wakeup call” service that alerted people in nearby inns about missing departing ships, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. She also was the first female police officer in Canada.

The film seemed to open viewers' eyes to the truths of Nova Scotia’s role in slavery and the turmoil that many, including Fortune, faced.

“It’s sort of strange that a community founded on Quakers, strict Christians, would have engaged in (slavery) without a hesitation,” said Christine Earl.

“I think (Fortune’s) life was in danger because of the Fugitive Slave Act and any ship pulling in could have carried men, bounty hunters, slave hunters, who could have taken her back very quickly,” said Denise Ascenzo.

The documentary, while important and informative, seemed to fall short of viewers’ expectations in terms of details.

“I really enjoyed a lot of the information and I also enjoyed the fact that they found relatives or the descendants of this woman, I appreciate that but I feel like I wanted more,” said Ascenzo.

Other attendees shared a similar sentiment.

Despite those perceived shortcomings, people left the discussion with a better understanding of an important figure and a thirst for more information on Black Canadian history.

The next Doc Club meeting on March 5 will be a discussion about a film on Agnes MacPhail, Canada's first female MP.

To register, contact Barabara Worthy at