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Brantford's Black History

Underground Railroad in Brantford

Many of the members of the early Black community in Brantford were freedom-seekers who arrived to the area using the Underground Railroad. It can be assumed that many of the early Black residents that came to Brantford were formerly enslaved in the southern US prior to their arrival.

The Importance of Sophia Pooley

Sophia Pooley was born into slavery in Fishkill, New York, the daughter of Oliver and Dinah Burthen, also enslaved. When she was seven years old, Sophia was taken to Niagara and sold to Joseph Brant along with her sister.

The Story Of Joseph Brant

Some early Black History in Brantford dates back to 1784, when Joseph Brant brought 30 to 40 enslaved people to the area to work in his fields, as well as at his home in Upper New York State. Many were also brought to Six Nations land, Mohawk Village (East Brantford) and Burlington. 

Why Mohawk Park Matters

In 1903, the anniversary of Emancipation Day was celebrated in Mohawk Park.  It was well attended by residents of Brantford, as well as visitors from Guelph, Woodstock, Hamilton and Toronto.

Greenwood Cemetery & Andrew Lucas

Located at 235 Clarence Street, this cemetery is Brantford’s oldest active cemetery. It is the final resting place for many of Brantford’s first Black residents, including Andrew Lucas.  Mr. Lucas was said to have lived to be 120 years of age, though this cannot be confirmed as he did not know his birthdate.

The Remarkable Blanche Williams

In 1885, Brantford resident Blanche Williams was preparing to attend the University of Toronto for her undergraduate studies as the first Black woman to be admitted to the school and allowed the same privileges as white students.

Public Execution of Robert Over and John Moore

On June 7th, 1859, Brantford’s only public execution took place in Victoria Park. According to Peacemakers & Lawbreakers: A 125-Year History of the Brantford Police Service, it was one of the largest crowds ever to gather in what was then the small town of Brantford. The two men who were hanged that day in Victoria Park were Robert Over and John Moore (both Black men).

Baptist Church And Reverend William Ree

The first baptist church in Brantford was established in 1833 following the arrival of Reverend William Ree’s to the village of Brantford. In 1834, the First Baptist Chapel was erected on the west side of Bridge Street (formerly West Street) between Darling and Wellington Streets.

SR Drake Memorial Church

East Ward was home to early Black settlers in Brantford. A map by Lewis Burwell from 1830 indicates that the first “African” Church was located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Dalhousie and Peel Streets.

"Little Africa"

In the first half of the 1800's, East Ward became home to many freedom seeking individuals and families. As communities were often centred around the church, the now British Methodist Episcopal Church (B.M.E or Drake Memorial) located on Murray St. was the hub for these families to share, learn and grow. 
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