“Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.” – the late American civil rights icon and U.S Congressman John Lewis, in a message he wrote to all of us, shortly before his death on July 17th, 2020
A Brief One from Doug Draper, Niagara At Large Posted August 1st, 2020
This August 1st is Emancipation Day in Canada, in commemoration of 186 years since a law was signed on August 1st, 1834, abolishing slavery across Canada and all other nations then part of the British Empire.
As a little way of honouring Emancipation Day and all that it stands for here, I want to put on a video of the late, great civil rights activist John Lewis delivering a commencement address at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 2014. In place of delivering a tribute of her own (she delivered a moving eulogy later at John Lewis’s funeral), U.S. Congresswoman and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi chose to play an audio version of this address this July 28th, while John Lewis body lay in state in the U.S. Capital building rotunda. The address John Lewis delivered was a call to young graduates at the university, and to people around the world, to work to build a better world for everyone. His words here should be an inspiration to us all. To hear and watch the commemoration address, click on the screen below –
A Brief History on Emancipation Day from the Royal Commonwealth Society of Canada –
DECLARE AUGUST 1ST AS EMANCIPATION DAY IN CANADA
In March 1793, John Graves Simcoe, Governor of Upper Canada (modern day Ontario), was shocked to learn that an enslaved woman named Chloe Cooley was forcibly bound and dragged onto a boat and taken across the Niagara River to be sold.
Realizing that the freedom of all Africans in Upper Canada was in similar jeopardy, he began to lobby others in the colonial government. In July of that year, Simcoe was able to pass legislation banning the importation of enslaved Africans into Upper Canada and guaranteeing freedom for the children of enslaved Africans born from then on when they reached the age of 25.
The first such law of its kind in the British Empire, it led to the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade by 1807. Finally, in 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act brought an end to chattel slavery throughout the Empire, coming into effect on August 1, 1834 in Britain, Canada, and several other colonies, and 1838 in the Caribbean and elsewhere.
Canada continued to lead in the fight against slavery even after abolition. Towns and villages throughout Upper Canada, and eventually the other colonies of British North America, became the first safe havens for thousands of enslaved Africans whose courage and resilience pushed them to break free of their bonds in the United States.
Without the freedom guaranteed throughout Canada and the British Empire, this first freedom movement in the Americas could not have flourished.
To read the full message John Lewis wrote to the world, shortly before his death on July 17th, 2020, click on the following link – https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/30/opinion/john-lewis-civil-rights-america.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
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