On This Day: The Anti-Slavery Society of Canada Was Formed

On This Day: The Anti-Slavery Society of Canada Was Formed

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On February 26, 1851, the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada was formed. In a public meeting chaired by the mayor in Toronto City Hall (now part of St. Lawrence market), the aim was to promote the global abolition of slavery and provide relief to African American refugees seeking freedom in Canada. 

See also: On This Day: Rosemary Brown Elected as the First Black Woman to Sit in a Legislative Assembly in Canada

Members of the Committee

The founding committee included several faith leaders and other prominent members of the public. The committee was a mix of Black and Caucasian members across Canada West who came together to adopt a constitution, bylaws and four resolutions. These resolutions created by the Anti-Slavery Society condemned enslavement as inhumane, indicted the United States for not outlawing the practice and sympathized with the efforts of American abolitionists. 

Publisher George Brown was a member, as well as Black members Wilson Ruffin Abbott, businessman and father of Anderson Abbott, grocer Albert Beckford Jones and Henry Bibb, activist and editor of Voice of the Fugitive

Bibb was born as a slave in Kentucky in 1815. He made several attempts to escape before ultimately achieving freedom in 1840. Following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, Bibb and his wife settled from Detroit to the west side of Windsor. Bibb was also a founding director of the Refugee Home Society, which used donations from anti-slavery groups to purchase land in Essex County that could then be sold to refugees.

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The Role of Women in the Committee

Wives of the society’s committee members and local-vice presidents played an essential role to the Anti-Slavery Society. Women’s organizations collected and distributed money and clothing for fugitives, plus campaigning for abolition in the US. 

The Ladies Association gathered almost 14,000 signatures for the Stafford House Address of 1853. The petition — signed by more than half a million women throughout the British Empire — appealed to women in the United States to help end enslavement in their country. 

Although a larger society was established in the United States in the 1850s, the Anti-Slavery Society Canadian group helped shape public opinion in the years leading up to the American Civil War, where an estimated 40,000 Canadians fought on the side of the abolitionist North.