Sunday, February 4

Canadian Black History Month

Each year in February, Canada celebrates Black History Month. This is when we pay tribute to Black Canadians who have made a difference in the lives of those who live here.

Today, I'd like to pay tribute to Thornton and Lucie Blackburn. The couple fled Kentucky on July 3, 1831 and took a steam ship up the Ohio River. They left Louisville and traveled to Cincinnati where they boarded a stagecoach to Detroit. Two years later, they were recaptured by their owner, which started the Blackburn riots of 1833. The Black community helped the Blackburns cross the border into Canada. 

Michigan's governor sent two extradition requests that were refused by Lieutenant Governor John Colbourne. The couple then moved to Toronto.  There, they built a house on the corner of Eastern Avenue and Sackville Street. They lived there for approximately 50 years and the house became a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Thornton became a waiter at Osgoode Hall and noticed that the City had little transportation. He instructed a horse drawn conveyance to be built that would act as a cab and transport four passengers. The taxi was built in Paul Bishop's workshop, which still stands at Adelaide and Sherbourne.  The taxi was the first ever for Toronto and was named The City. It was red and gold, the same colours the TTC use today. 

Thornton died in 1890. He left Lucie a small fortune he had saved from the business.

In 1985, archaeologists found clues as to Toronto's part as a terminal for the Underground Railroad. This is the only dig of its kind ever conducted in Canada.

Thorton and Lucie Blackburn were named  "Persons of National Historic Significance," by the Department of Canadian Heritage in 1999.