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Niagara Falls
Saturday, September 30, 2023
Museum lecture highlights Underground Railroad and fight for freedom
Before the American Civil War, thousands of people who were enslaved in the southern United States ran away to find freedom. Some made their way to Canada - including Niagara-on-the-Lake. SUPPLIED Supplied

The legendary Underground Railroad movement was perhaps one of the 19th century’s most significant movements of people in North America.

Today, we’re still learning about and understanding the impact of this historic resistance to enslavement in the United States.

On Thursday evening, Aug. 17, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum continues its summer lecture series with historian Rochelle Bush, who will present her lecture, “The Underground Railroad: From Bondage to Niagara.”

The lecture complements the museum’s “Bound and Determined” exhibition, the story of Chloe Cooley, available to view until Nov. 13.

Before the American Civil War, which lasted four years from 1861 to 1865, thousands of people who were enslaved in the southern United States ran away to find freedom.

Many came to Canada. Some freedom-seekers were helped by Underground Railroad conductors, the most famous of them being Harriet Tubman.

But many more found their way to Canada without any help, or thanks only the chance kindness of strangers.

Not everyone succeeded in reaching freedom and nobody knows how many people were captured and taken back to slavery or killed on their journey.

In her lecture, Bush will trace the journey of a few freedom seekers who escaped enslavement and arrived in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Black settlers came to NOTL as early as the 1780s, some as free Black people, while others were enslaved and brought here by fleeing white Loyalists after the American Revolution.

Up to 1834, about 600 enslaved people of African descent lived in Upper Canada (now Ontario) and the Black population reached nearly 100 in Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

Bush was born and raised in St. Catharines and is a descendant of an African American freedom seeker.

She is the owner and operator of Tubman Tours Canada, and the resident historian and trustee of the Salem Chapel, BME Church, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad national historic site, one of the oldest Black churches in Ontario.

The lecture will start at 7:30 p.m. and admission is $10 or free for NOTL Museum members.

For more information, call the museum at (905) 468-3912. Seating is limited, so call to reserve seating, or email Amy Klassen at aklassen@nhsm.ca.

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