Alvin McCurdy exhibit on display at North American Black Historical Museum


McCurdy exhibit3 By Ron Giofu


Alvin McCurdy compiled a vast collection of materials relating to Black history during his lifetime and some of his collection has made it back to Amherstburg.

The Alvin McCurdy exhibit is now at the North American Black Historical Museum (NABHM) in co-operation with the Ontario Black History Society.

McCurdy, whose life spanned from 1916 to 1989, was an Amherstburg native that was involved in many local organizations but also was an avid collector of history. He compiled various documents relating to Black history from newspaper articles to correspondence and other materials including photographs, all of which now belong to the Archives of Ontario in Toronto.

“We are pleased to host this exhibit,” said Monty Logan, president of the NABHM’s board of directors. “The McCurdy family has a rich history across Essex County. The contributions of the McCurdy family extend past this exhibition and continue on to this day.”

Mary McCurdy Willis, Alvin’s daughter, recalled fond memories of her father from when she was growing up from going with him to watch parades to dancing with him in their Amherstburg home. Willis recalled how important education was to her father and how encouraging he was when she pursued hers. She also noted how proud he was of his family and of history.

“My dad was so proud of his heritage, the McCurdy family and the McCurdy name,” said Willis.

Willis also said Alvin was always ready to assist people in finding historical information, whether people were writing books or exploring their own family histories.

“He was always willing to share what he knew with others,” she said.

When the collection was sold after his death, Willis added she ran into a woman while vacationing in the Caribbean who was familiar with Alvin and his works.

“His collection is serving a wonderful purpose,” she said.

Willis called last Saturday afternoon’s exhibit opening “a wonderful occasion” during her remarks inside the Nazrey AME Church.

“There is only one thing missing and that is my dad,” she said.

Dr. Howard McCurdy pointed out the family’s history dates back to at least the 1700s. He added Alvin’s research not only included the McCurdy family but others as well and that Alvin was one of the first people to take an interest and research the Underground Railroad.

“He did establish the roots of Black history in Canada,” said Dr. McCurdy, adding that “many tales” have come out of Alvin’s research that had before been unknown.

Mayor Wayne Hurst said Alvin McCurdy was like “a father figure” to him and praised him for having the foresight to start compiling documents and photographs relating to Black history.

“He inspired me to run for municipal office,” added Hurst.

NABHM curator Terran Fader said the collection is roughly 43 cubic feet of notes, correspondence, photographs, genealogical materials and other documentation dating back over 100 years. It covers religion, community life, civil rights and other historical aspects.

“His own family interest spurred interest in a larger collection,” she said.

The Alvin McCurdy exhibit is on the second floor of the North American Black Historical Museum and is included with the regular admission price. The museum is open Tuesday-Friday from 12-5 p.m. and weekends from 1-5 p.m.

The exhibit runs at the NABHM until Dec. 18. Two other events are planned while it is in Amherstburg including a Nov. 9 event where McCurdy’s work will be further highlighted. That event starts at 2 p.m. Christmas at the Museum will be Dec. 18 and that will help serve to close the exhibit. That event is at 7 p.m.

For more information, call 519-736-5433, e-mail or visit

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