Amherstburg Freedom Museum

Emancipation Gala presented by Amherstburg Freedom Museum

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

It was a busy weekend for the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and it got underway with the Emancipation Gala Friday night.

According to museum curator Mary-Katherine Whelan, upwards of 185 people attended the event at the Caboto Club in Windsor. David Van Dyke, vice president of the museum’s board of directors, said he recalled relatives talking about Emancipation Day celebrations and now that tradition is continuing.

Van Dyke pointed out on Aug. 1, 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act was signed by the British government and enacted the following year.

Amherstburg Freedom Museum board members Philip Alexander and Tom Hurst join Windsor-Tecumseh MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield in presenting a Mac Simpson Award to Justice Elliott (centre).

Amherstburg Freedom Museum board members Philip Alexander and Tom Hurst join Windsor-Tecumseh MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield in presenting a Mac Simpson Award to Justice Elliott (centre).

“Essentially, what it did was spark interest in the south,” he added. “In the south, slavery was still the law of the land.”

From there, slaves became escaping to what is now Canada from the United States via the Underground Railroad. Communities such as Dresden, Buxton, Amherstburg, Puce and Windsor were formed with the aid of Black people, he added.

“Emancipation evokes happiness. Emancipation evokes freedom. Emancipation evokes the feeling of doing what we want to do,” said Van Dyke.

Van Dyke noted the Amherstburg Freedom Museum houses over 40,000 documents and work is being done to digitize them. He said the museum is a place of learning but a place to have fun as well.

Another Mac Simpson Award was presented to Shaniece Peters (centre). With her is WIndsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield, Tom Hurst, Windsor-Essex MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Philip Alexander.

Another Mac Simpson Award was presented to Shaniece Peters (centre). With her is WIndsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield, Tom Hurst, Windsor-Essex MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Philip Alexander.

Eric Griggs, district vice president with TD Canada Trust, said the bank is a proud sponsor of the Emancipation Gala and touted TD Canada Trust’s efforts in not only supporting the Black community, but also developing the TD Black Employee Network in order to assist Black employees in advancing.

There were two Mac Simpson Awards handed out, with high school students in the region eligible to write a poem, essay or make a presentation. Justice Elliott and Shaniece Peters were this year’s recipients.

Guest speaker Kenn Stanton, a former curator with the museum, outlined several of his choices for local heroes. He cited several civil rights activists, along with newspaper publishers, teachers, politicians and more including Mary (Miles) Bibb, Mary Ann (Shadd) Cary, James L. Dunn, Alvin McCurdy, George McCurdy, Dr. Henry D. Taylor, Alton Parker, James Watson, Mac and Betty Simpson and Oshiomogho Atogwe.

“There are many others,” Stanton told the audience, “but time doesn’t permit.”

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum also presented the Walter Perry Golf Classic Saturday afternoon at Fox Glen Golf Club in McGregor.

Roughly 200 people attend “Ribs & Ragtime” at Amherstburg Freedom Museum

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum presented the annual “Ribs & Ragtime” event Saturday night with a large crowd there to enjoy the evening.

Approximately 200 people sat under tents in the front of the museum and enjoyed ribs, chicken and the music of the band “Straight Ahead.” Monty Logan, president of the museum’s board of directors, was happy with the sunny sky and warm temperature the event enjoyed.

“It’s a beautiful day,” he said. “It’s awesome.”

The Detroit-based band “Straight Ahead” performed again this year at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s “Ribs & Ragtime” fundraising event. It was the first event in a busy season for the museum.

The Detroit-based band “Straight Ahead” performed again this year at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s “Ribs & Ragtime” fundraising event. It was the first event in a busy season for the museum.

Logan added recent construction work in front of the museum was finished with that being covered by a recent Ontario150 grant.

“The courtyard is complete just in time for Ribs & Ragtime,” commented Logan. “We’re glad to see everyone here having a great time.”

The event is one of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s largest fundraisers, raising about $5,000 annually for the museum.

Darryl Hogan, the museum’s vice president, also pointed out that “we’re so lucky to have great weather.”

Hogan said that “friends, family and friends of the museum” turned out Saturday evening.

“It’s great to see people from the community come out and support us,” said Hogan. “We want to become a more significant part of Amherstburg.”

The band “Straight Ahead” came from Detroit again this year with Hogan stating organizers went with that band again because of how popular they were from previous Ribs & Ragtime events.

Those who attended Ribs & Ragtime, including this table, had a good time Saturday night.

Those who attended Ribs & Ragtime, including this table, had a good time Saturday night.

“The summer is very busy for us,” Hogan added, noting the Emancipation Gala and the Walter Perry Emancipation Golf Classic are also on the horizon. The latter events are Aug. 4 and 5 respectively.

“This year, we’re hoping to get our (Amherstburg Freedom) summit up and running,” he added.

Hogan thanked the town for its support as well as those who came in from elsewhere to support the museum.

For more information on the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and its events, call 519-736-5433 or 1-800-713-6336 or visit www.amherstburgfreedom.org. They can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AmherstburgFreedom or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Aburgfreedom.

Author seeking local stories May 24 at two Amherstburg locations

By Danica Skakavac

 

In honour of Canada’s 150 Anniversary, Toronto author Darlene Butts has decided to create a book that contains 150 different Canadian stories, all containing the same idea; “ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” as Butts puts it.

Instead of researching and writing the whole book and all 150 stories herself, Butts is asking around all of Canada for people to send in their unique and historical story so that it may be added to the book. There are many ways to get involved; submit a story, follow on social media or through the website that includes an interactive map that shows where the tour is going and where it has already been. You can also sponsor a classroom for books or sponsor the tour itself to ensure it becomes a reality.

Butts is calling it the ‘150 Canadian Stories’ project and is taking it on tour with her as she collects more and more entries. The book itself is a ‘mixture of Chicken Soup for the Soul and a really cool Canadian history book’. Butts’ goal is to get a finished copy of the book in the hands of every grade five student, from St. John’s to Vancouver. She is looking for a combination of tears, laughter, goosebumps and as well as the response, “Wow! I didn’t know that!”

Various stories included will be about historical figures that contributed to Canada. “I want stories that engage the reader, inspire them to experience Canada, and help them learn about all the wonderful people, places and things that have been woven together to make this country great,” says Butts, about her aim for the book. She will be stopping at Fort Malden and the Freedom Museum on the afternoon of May 24 during her tour, as she has lived in Windsor/Essex County for 18 years.

She plans on being at the museum for 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Fort Malden for 3-3:30 p.m.

“I love Canada so much and believe that I can be anyone and do anything here. I wanted to share that with other Canadian’s and especially inspire the next generation,” says Butts.

Amherstburg Freedom Museum recognized by Ontario Trillium Foundation at AGM

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum held its annual general meeting inside the Nazrey AME Church and the meeting included provincial recognition for the museum.

The museum was recognized by the Ontario Trillium Foundation for receiving a $45,000 grant under the Ontario 150 Community Capital Grant program. The money helped the museum complete the project to put a new cedar shake roof on the Nazrey AME Church with some of the funds also being put towards a new courtyard at the museum.

“We had a great year in 2016 and we’re looking forward to a great 2017,” said Monty Logan, president of the museum’s board of directors.

Dan Allen (left), chair of the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s grant review team, and Essex MPP Taras Natyshak (right) present Amherstburg Freedom Museum president Monty Logan with a plaque in recognition of the museum’s Ontario 150 grant.  The presentation came at the museum’s annual general meeting.

Dan Allen (left), chair of the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s grant review team, and Essex MPP Taras Natyshak (right) present Amherstburg Freedom Museum president Monty Logan with a plaque in recognition of the museum’s Ontario 150 grant. The presentation came at the museum’s annual general meeting.

Logan also pointed out the challenge to repair the church roof was assisted by a fundraising campaign, and thanked those who donated towards it.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak recognized the museum, saying while he gets to honour those who receive grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), it is the OTF that does the bulk of the work.

“The importance of maintaining, preserving and sharing this facility – this place of worship – and all the stories within is immense,” said Natyshak.

Natyshak pointed out the church’s role on the Underground Railroad, stating people seeking freedom from slavery found solace and love at the church. He said it not only means a lot to the Amherstburg and Essex County communities, but the church means a lot to the nation as well.

Dan Allen, a member of the OTF’s grant review team, noted the Nazrey AME Church has been part of the community for 170 years and it has played a vital role for so many people throughout the generations.

The AGM also was a time to recognize volunteers, including awarding the 2017 recipient of the Betty Simpson Volunteer of the Year Award. That was presented to Carolin Harris.

“It’s an incredible place to volunteer,” said Harris. “It was humbling to receive such a prestigious award. It’s humbling because it’s something I enjoy.”

Harris, who estimated she donated 200 hours of her time in 2016, said she lives across the street and came to volunteer about ten years ago when she saw a need to help maintain flowers and plants the Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society had planted.

“Ever since then, I’ve been taking care of it,” she said.

Harris added her children have worked at the museum and said “I could never repay what the museum has given to them.”

“Without volunteers, we couldn’t keep the doors open,” said Logan, who also paid tribute to the museum’s staff.

Logan also pointed out the museum is looking at getting a new website and wants to digitize their archives to make them more accessible online.

Carolin Harris (centre) receives the 2017 Betty Simpson Volunteer of the Year Award from Amherstburg Freedom Museum curator Mary-Katherine Whelan (left) and board president Monty Logan (right).

Carolin Harris (centre) receives the 2017 Betty Simpson Volunteer of the Year Award from Amherstburg Freedom Museum curator Mary-Katherine Whelan (left) and board president Monty Logan (right).

“We’re really excited about that initiative,” she said.

The museum is excited to host the Amherstburg Freedom Summit this fall, he added.

Programming committee chair Philip Alexander noted the museum facilitated the photography of some Underground Railroad descendants for an exhibit called “North is Freedom.” It was launched at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and was later displayed at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa. Alexander also pointed out the museum housed a portion of the “Family Ties: Ontario Turns 150” exhibit and also presented Mac Simpson Awards to students Sarah Tesfay and Keenan Wilson to help them pursue post-secondary educations.

Fundraising chair and museum vice president Darryl Hogan said they have a $35,000 goal that they want to hit and noted the upcoming June 3 “Ribs & Ragtime” event is one of the ways they will do it along with the Emancipation Gala and the Walter Perry Golf Classic. He encouraged people to bring family and friends to the museum so they could see what it’s all about.

Curator Mary-Katherine Whelan said the museum welcomed 1,654 visitors last year including school groups and people from across Canada and the United States. She thanked the volunteers and staff for their work and believed one of the most important parts of their jobs is sharing the history and stories the museum has to offer.

 

Traveling exhibit makes stop at Amherstburg Freedom Museum

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A traveling exhibit has made its way to the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and is part of Black History Month.

“Family Ties – Ontario Turns 150” is being hosted on the second floor of the museum, with the regular exhibit still being featured on the main floor.

“It’s from the Archives of Ontario,” explained Mary-Katherine Whelan, curator/administrator at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum.

Whelan said the museum has previously worked with the Archives of Ontario, including performing research for the travelling exhibit. The exhibit tells the story of four families around during the period of Confederation, including the McCurdy family. Much of the exhibit features material from the collection of Alvin McCurdy and dates back to the life of Nasa McCurdy Jr. and his ancestors.

The McCurdy family is very prominent locally, Whelan stated, and “their history is well known.”

Whelan also pointed out the McCurdy family has close ties to the museum with Mabel McCurdy being a cousin of museum co-founder Melvin “Mac” Simpson.

A travelling exhibit from the Archives of Ontario entitled “Family Ties - Ontario Turns 150” is on  display at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum through the end of March.

A travelling exhibit from the Archives of Ontario entitled “Family Ties – Ontario Turns 150” is on display at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum through the end of March.

“It’s a nice tie-in as well,” said Whelan.

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum has also put out additional pieces from its collection to accompany the “Family Ties – Ontario Turns 150” exhibit including carpenter’s tools that Nasa McCurdy Jr. may have used back in his day. There is also a copy of “The Globe” newspaper from July 1, 1867 on display.

The relationship between the Archives of Ontario and the Amherstburg Freedom Museum goes both ways, she pointed out, as an artifact from the local museum is part of an exhibit with the Archives of Ontario. Much of the materials and artifacts gathered over the years by Alvin McCurdy is featured by the Archives of Ontario.

Work on the current exhibit started under former curator/administrator Terran Fader, Whelan explained, but Whelan added she wanted to ensure the “Family Ties” exhibit was at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum for Black History Month. In fact, it not only runs throughout February but all of March as well.

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum, located at 277 King Street in Amherstburg, is offering $1 off admission per person to celebrate Black History Month. Admission is normally $7.50 per adult, $6.50 per student or senior with children five and under admitted free of charge.

In order to claim the discount, people need to know when the Nazrey African Methodist Episcopal Church National Historic Site of Canada was built and by whom, when tickets are purchased. This discount is only available in February and only if the correct response (in 1848 people fleeing American slavery built this church by hand to serve Amherstburg’s growing Black community) is given. The offer does not apply to tour groups, said Whelan.

Hours of operation are Tuesday-Friday 12-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1-5 p.m., and closed Mondays.

The link for the Black History Month events happening in Windsor-Essex is www.amherstburgfreedommuseum.org/black-history-month-2017.html.

The museum is also continuing to fundraise for a new cedar shake roof for the Nazrey AME Church. People can make donations directly to the museum or by visiting www.gofundme.com/repairhistoricsiteroof. Whelan said they hope to start work on the roof in the spring.