February is Black History Month. It is a time of year that I enjoy researching the lives of Black Canadians and Americans. While doing that recently I came upon a name that I hadn't seen before...that of William Peyton Hubbard. In recognition of Black History Month, I would like to tell you more about this man.
William Peyton Hubbard was born in Toronto in 1842, to parents to had escaped slavery and came to Canada along the Underground Railroad. He was raised in a cabin in The Bush, which was in the vicinity of what is now known as Bloor and Brunswick Streets.
Hubbard's father had been a slave in Virginia. Upon arriving in Toronto, he waited tables to earn a living for his family. He saw that his son, William, attended school and when he had completed his schooling, he was sent to Toronto Model School to learn the trade of baker. This was a great opportunity, as Toronto's schools weren't segregated, unlike most Ontario schools.
Hubbard practiced his trade of baker for sixteen years, at which time he invented and patented an oven. He expected to continue in this line of work for the rest of his life.
On a dark, dreary night, Hubbard rescued a man who was driving his horse and carriage when his horses spooked and threw him into the Don River. Hubbard rescued him from the waters and found out that he was George Brown, the editor of the Globe newspaper and a future Father of Confederation.
Brown hired Hubbard as his personal driver - a reward for saving his life. The two men came to know each other well. Brown recognized Hubbard's sharp wit, oratory skills and strong sense of civic duty. He encouraged Hubbard, who had strong political views, to enter politics.
In 1894, Hubbard became the first person of African descent to sit on Toronto City Council. He stood up for the rights of the working man and protected small Chinese laundries from being harrassed by large laundry companies. Hubbard was re-elected several times and served on council for thirteen years.
Hubbard fought hard to keep Toronto's water supply public. He also played a prominent role in creating a public owned hydro-electric company which today is known as Hydro One. It supplies electric power to most of Ontario. Hubbard later went on toe champion the cause of tolerance and fight against racial prejudice.
Hubbard was blessed with the gift of longevity. He died in 1935 and was buried at Toronto Necropolis, a historic cemetery alongside other prominent Canadians such as George Brown, William Lyon Mackenzie (Toronto's first mayor) and Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott. (Canada's first black surgeon.)
Each year, Hydro One awards two African Canadian students with scholarships in honor of William Peyton Hubbard for the study of power related industries. William Peyton Hubbard left behind a great legacy.
National Geographic has a great site. Take a trip on the Underground Railroad. Make choices that slaves would have made when traveling this underground system to freedom. Remember, each decision you make, your life is at stake. Will you gain freedom or be returned to your Master?
Enjoy your weekend and be sure to take time to have fun with your family. ~Blessings, Mary~