Why do we recognize February as Black History Month? 

In Canada, this idea was first celebrated in Toronto by railroad porters within the Black community by 1950; the porters had learned of it on their travels in the United States. The Canadian Negro Women’s Association also hosted a few celebrations. It was not until the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) was founded in 1978, and petitioned the City of Toronto by 1979 to have February proclaimed Black History Month that the celebration started to trickle into the entire community. The OBHS has successfully lobbied the federal government to have February declared as Black History Month. In December 1995, the Parliament of Canada officially recognized February as Black History Month, following a motion introduced by the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine, MP of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

Events in Chatham-Kent 

Buxton National Historic Site and Museum 

February 22, 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. (Buxton National Historic Site & Museum)

Celebrate Black History month with this geared towards children event. Join Buxton's Next Generation for a special guest book reading by author Yejide Kilano, activities and a light snack. View the poster.

February 29, 1 p.m., 7 p.m. (Studio One, Cultural Centre, Chatham)

The Museum is pleased to share a screening of the video "Home to Buxton", following a post-screening discussion with Bryan and Shannon Prince. Buxton has been a Black settlement since the middle of the last century, when it was one of the destinations of escaped slaves traveling north on the Underground Railroad. Clair Prieto and Roger McTair went to Buxton to record one year’s ‘homecoming,’ and came back with a celebratory reminder of the history of the Black community has had in Canada. Join us for a screening and conversational discussion of this much-loved film. Following the evening session, stay for entertainment with Khari McLelland. 

Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum 

February 8, 10:30am

The children's book "Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman" will be shared at the Chatham-Kent Public Library. This book tells the story of the female trailblazer Bessie Coleman, the first African-American female pilot. Participants will then make an airplane. Drop in. No registration required, open to all ages. 

Parents must remain with their children. Click HERE for the poster. 

Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site

February 17, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Come celebrate Black History Month and Family Day at Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site! View the poster. 
Join Patience Charisa*, author and chef, as she dishes up African cuisine and folktales in celebration of Black History Month. 

Family Fun Day includes:

Book signing and reading by Chef Patience Chirisa, author of Za & Zoey series of children’s books
Guided Tour of Uncle Tom’s Cabin Museum (1:30 p.m.)
Arts and crafts for all children
African themed tattoos
Sample food tasting & refreshments
Fun for the whole family

*Chef Patience Chirisa, born in Zimbabwe, is a chef in the Toronto area.  Recently on CTV’s Canada AM, cooking with Ben Mulroney, she was also a guest on The Social and The Marilyn Denis Show this month.  She’ll be serving up African sausage as part of the day’s activities.

Thames Art Gallery 

January 17 - March 15 

"Legends are the Rivers that Take Us Home"

“Legends Are The Rivers That Take Us Home” celebrates disparate voices through art based on sound, fine craftsmanship, film-making, dance and protest. It highlights storytellers who endeavour, through their stories, to shape the meaning of “now” – through concepts of place, history, and the power of listening, this thought-provoking exhibition encourages us to explore our own paths and the paths of others, and examine the places where these paths intersect.

Studio One, Cultural Centre

Concert: Khari McClelland

February 29, 2020 | 8PM | Studio One

Khari has become a darling on the Canadian music scene for his performances of a clever mix of soul and gospel. Khari’s song-writing crosses genres and generations. His music draws from this rich history, integrating the rhythms and folklore of early African-Americans with contemporary sounds and stories of struggle. More details to come!

Kent Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society

The Kent Branch of the OGS is located within the Chatham Public Library branch. Here you can research Kent County roots through an extensive collection in their library, open Wednesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. 

Chatham-Kent Public Libraries 

Our libraries are filled with a great assortment of black history collections, books written by black authors and a host of biographies featuring signifiant individuals from history. 

Visit Local Sites 

Both Buxton National Historic Site & Museum and the Chatham Kent Black Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum are open during the month of February to explore and learn more. While Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site doesn't open until later in the spring, you can visit their website to learn more now. You can also down the read about all three sites and download the Underground Railroad Brochure here

What do others have to say about the sites? 

Globe and Mail, Lifestyle Blogger Shannae Ingleton Smith

Chatham-Kent's Underground Railroad was the feature in a "Tri-Fecta Road Trip" blog with Toronto based lifestyle blogger Shannae Ingleton Smith. Chatham-Kent Tourism along with SWOTC hosted Ms. Ingleton Smith and a friend for a "girlfriend's get-away", which included stops at Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum and at Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site. To ensure each site was given ample time for exploration and discovery, the two stayed at RetroSuites, and dined at Chilled Cork and the Chatham Breakfast House Grille and Churrascaria. 
The article featuring the trip can be found here

Canadian Geographic

In the fall of 2018, Chatham-Kent Tourism hosted Travel Writer and Influencer Heather Greenwood Davis who visited all three Underground Railroad sites in Chatham-Kent. You can pick up a copy of the January/February edition of Canadian Geographic to read what she has to say about Buxton National Historic Site & Museum and the Chatham Kent Black Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum. She also has an exclusive online story profiling Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site which you can find here

Still Standing "Buxton" episode

In this episode, Jonny travels back in time, kisses a less than desirable woman and learns that Buxton, Ontario is the happy ending to the most shameful era of American history.