The Underground Railroad
Take an emotional ride on the Underground Railroad and experience some of the most poignant stops – with three right here in Chatham-Kent. Considered the destination for freedom seekers, this region was home to some of the most successful Black settlements in Canadian history. Today, Buxton National Historic Site & Museum, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historical Site and the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society all serve as windows into the past, allowing visitors to touch, feel, see and hear the stories of those who took heroic journeys, following the North Star to freedom in Chatham-Kent.
Buxton National Historic Site & Museum
One of the last stops on the Underground Railroad, the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum preserves the successful Buxton settlement and features original structures built by fugitive slaves. At Ontario’s second largest national historic site, visitors can "Ring the Liberty Bell" and tour the last standing schoolhouse, an 1852 log cabin, two churches, a cemetery and museum.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Chatham-Kent is also home to Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site displays the life story of one of history’s most famous black slaves, Rev. Josiah Henson - the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe's book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin". Visitors can tour Henson’s home, a smokehouse, sawmill, the Henson Family Cemetery and Pioneer Church.
Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society
The stories of slaves who established roots in Chatham are displayed at the self-guided exhibit, Black Mecca: The stories of Black Community. This exhibit highlights the struggles and achievements of blacks during the days of slavery, early settlement in Chatham, the Civil Rights movement and modern times. A short walk from the Black Mecca Exhibit is the BME Freedom Park, located on the site of the first BME Church in Canada. At the BME Church, Abolitionist John Brown gained supporters for his attack on harper's Ferry, Virginia. The focal point of the park is a bronze bust of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, an educator and abolitionist who sought to improve the lives of people regardless of race or gender. Another point of interest in Chatham includes the Chatham First Baptist Church (available for exterior viewing only).
Chatham-Kent is also home to the Ontario Genealogy Society's Kent Branch, where descendants of fugitive slaves, and those with black ancestry can trace their roots and gain knowledge about details in how, when and where their ancestors arrived in Canada. The Kent Branch is located within the Chatham-Kent Public Library and invites members of the public seeking knowledge about their ancestry to do their own research using materials on their "open shelves" resource centre.