Toronto's Historical Plaques
Discover Toronto's history as told through its plaques
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Thornton and Lucie Blackburn
Photos by Alan L Brown - Posted September, 2006
On the grounds of this school at 19 Sackville Street on the corner with Eastern Avenue can be found this Parks Canada plaque. Here's what it says:
Coordinates: 43.653664 -79.359307
In 1985, archaeologists digging on this site uncovered fascinating clues to Toronto's history as a terminus of the famous Underground Railway. From 1834 to 1890, this site had been the home of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, refugee slaves from Kentucky who started Toronto's first taxicab company.
Thornton and Lucie Blackburn escaped on July 3, 1831 by taking a steamboat up the Ohio River from Louisville to Cincinnati and then a stagecoach to Michigan. Their recapture in Detroit two years later resulted in the "Blackburn Riots of 1833". Detroit's Black community staged a dramatic rescue and aided the Blackburns across the border to safety in Canada. Despite two extradition requests by Michigan's governor, they were allowed to remain free and begin their new lives in Canada.
The Blackburns became well-known members of Toronto's African Canadian community. They helped to build Little Trinity Anglican Church, and contributed to efforts organized to assist other freedom-seekers, both in Toronto and at Buxton in southwestern Ontario. Thornton participated in the "North American Convention of Colored Freemen" at St. Lawrence Hall in September of 1851, and was an associate of George Brown in anti-slavery activities.
The excavation of the Blackburn's former home remains the only archaeological dig on an Underground Railway site ever conducted in Toronto. In 1999, the Department of Canadian Heritage designated Thornton and Lucie Blackburn "Persons of National Historic Significance" in recognition of their generosity to the less fortunate and their lifelong resistance to slavery and racial oppression.
> Posted February 1, 2017
There is a well researched biography of the Blackburns, their escape to Canada and their activities in Toronto. "I've Got a Home in Glory Land," is written by Karolyn Smardz Frost and published by Dundurn Press. The book reads well and Frost does a good job of speculating possibilities to lead the reader through the parts of their history that are not known.
Here is a link to the New York Times book review: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/17/books/review/Reynolds-t.html
Bill Fleming email@example.com
> Posted March 20, 2009
For further information on this couple's remarkable story, see the book "I've Got a Home in Glory Land" by Karolyn Smardz Frost. It's a fascinating and thrilling tale.
G Trew, ON
> Posted March 16, 2009
My goodness what an enlightening story. As an African Canadian woman, I really cherish this history and hold in high esteem the price my fellow ancestors paid for me to be a free woman in North America.
K Sawyer, BC
> Posted September 8, 2008
Have there been any words of Lucie and Thornton preserved for us? firstname.lastname@example.org
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