Black History Exhibit celebration at Upper Canada Village

Participating in the Black History Exhibit opening at Upper Canada Village last Saturday were: Tracey Ogilby (Manager, UCV), Councillor Rawlson King (City of Ottawa Councillor for Ward 13 Rideau-Rockcliffe and Ottawa’s first Black City Councillor), Bob Runciman (Chair, St. Lawrence Parks Commission), Senator Bernadette Clement (Canadian Senator, Former Mayor of Cornwall, First Black woman to serve as a mayor in Ontario), Local MPP Nolan Quinn, Hollee Kew (GM & CEO, SLPC), Guy Tondreau (Commissioner, SLPC), Keisha Cuffie (Black History Program Development & Historical Interpreter, UCV), Helen Muleme (Cultural Advisor for the Black History Programming & Exhibit, UCV), Ian Roberts (Commissioner, SLPC), Julian Whittam (Coordinator of Interpretation for UCV) and Milton Kooistra (Interpretation training and research office UCV). (The Leader/Comfort photo)

MORRISBURG – The official opening of the new Black History Exhibit at Upper Canada Village was celebrated on the grounds of its Crysler Hall location May 25.

Among those in the crowd gathered were descendants of the Lewis, Whitford and Speck families whose ancestors’ stories and roots within 1860s Upper Canada are featured within the exhibit.

“Thank you for sharing your families with us,” said Tracey Ogilvie, UCV manager and event emcee. She added that the opening of this new exhibit is a beginning not an ending. “It’s the beginning of new partnerships and the telling of new stories to honour the history of all diversities in Eastern Ontario in the 1860s.”

Paul LeRue, a Lewis family descendant said, “This makes me proud. I’m happy my family is able to participate in the sharing of this history.”

“It’s a start,” said Myles Whitford, who added that seeing this exhibit and seeing what his family went through – “It is very emotional.”

Chair of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission Bob Runciman said that this new exhibit makes space for narratives that had been previously ignored or unnoticed and that this is part of the SLPC’s mission to create positive and lasting change.

“I have been waiting for this for a long time,” said Senator Bernadette Clement. “Without even knowing that I was waiting. Without understanding the impact of what was missing.”

She said that having an exhibit about “people who look like me” shows their resilience and will inspire all the children that walk through here and see this exhibit. She thanked UCV “this exhibit which is so beautifully and respectfully curated.”

“It is powerful.”

One of the most powerful pieces of the exhibit is the shackles used to keep enslaved people captive.

Saturday, at those shackles, an older black woman visiting the explained to a 10 year old black girl how they were used. The girl listened with disbelief and shock.

Milton Kooistra, interpretation training and research officer for Upper Canada Village explained that this piece of the exhibit was constructed in-house at the Blacksmith Shop and is and exact replica of the shackles in the Smithsonian and are an essential and important part of this display.

“Black history is Ontario history. Black history is Canadian history,” said Clement. “And, this place is a treasure.”

Also invited to speak at the celebration were: local MP Nolan Quinn, Ottawa City Councillor Rawlson King, Keisha Cuffie, Black History Program Development and Historical Interpreter for Upper Canada Village and Helen Muleme,Cultural Advisor for the Black History Programming, including the Black History Exhibit for Upper Canada Village.

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