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Black Presence in Windsor & Sandwich

Black fugitive slaves from the southern United States, as well as northern 'free slaves' began to make their appearance in the Windsor area shortly after the War of 1812. At first the numbers were small, but they increased with each decade, reaching the greatest percentage in the 1850's when a sizeable percentage of Windsor's population was black.

Most were lodged in Windsor's military barracks, which had been originally built to house British and Canadian troops. These buildings were erected in 1840 during a period of extreme tension between Canada and the United States and stood in the area of Windsor's present day City Hall.

To this day, there is a sizeable black population along nearby McDougall and Mercer Streets. Here they built their churches, tavern and a coloured school. Blacks in Windsor and Sandwich were not allowed to attend either public or separate schools until near the end of the nineteenth century.

Editor's Note: We have been trying to determine if there was a Black presence in Walkerville during the early years of its development. From letters and documents in the Hiram Walker's & Sons archives, there are indirect references to employees of Hiram Walker's who may have been Black but at this point in our research, there is no clear evidence.

What is known however, is for several decades during the 20th Century, non-whites and non-Christians were at first forbidden and then later discouraged from buying property. This is certainly a contentious issue and not a chapter in the area's history that one can be proud of but we wish to explore it in greater detail in the future.

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