Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society
The Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society is dedicated to the discovery, research, and preservation of the black history found in the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and the city of Chatham.
In the early 1800's five Black families settled along McGregor's Creek in the tiny town of Chatham, then known as "the Forks". The village soon became a haven for runaway slaves and by 1850, it's population was 1/3 Black. Once here, Blacks in Chatham thrived in business, education, medicine, sport, and literary and cultural arts. News of their success attracted Blacks to the are from across North American. The history of Blacks in early Chatham is not only of local significance; the years of Black contribution and participation in Southwestern Ontario left a fundamental impression on the national landscape. The Black Mecca exhibit, located within the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society, is a self-guided, interactive exhibit that highlights struggles and achievements during the period of slavery, early Chatham settlement and the Civil Rights Movement.
The BME Freedom Park, located a short walk from the Black Mecca exhibit, marks the initial site of the Black Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada. It was here that John Brown gained supporters for his attack on Harper's Ferry. The focal point of the park is a bronze statue of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, an abolitionist, editor, attorney, educator and suffragette who dedicated her life to improving the lives of everyone, regardless of race or gender.
John Brown Festival