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Fugitive Slaves and Spaces of Freedom in North America$
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Damian Alan Pargas

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813056036

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813056036.001.0001

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Revisiting “British Principle Talk”

Revisiting “British Principle Talk”

Antebellum Black Expectations and Racism in Early Ontario

(p.34) 2 Revisiting “British Principle Talk”
Fugitive Slaves and Spaces of Freedom in North America

Gordon S. Barker

University Press of Florida

This chapter explores the meaning of fugitive slave freedom in Canada West during the antebellum and Civil War era by examining the legal framework relating to slavery and race that emerged in what is now modern-day Ontario. Changes in statutory law, jurisprudence, and British free soil diplomacy will be addressed, revealing the evolution of Canada West as a safe haven from which few fugitive slaves were taken by slave catchers or state-sanctioned extradition. The chapter discusses what freedom on the ground meant for early black Canadians in terms of political rights, access to courts, education, landownership, employment, religious worship, participation in the militia, and the enjoyment of public places and services. Particular attention is given to the agency exercised by fugitive slave refugees and other black Canadians in shaping their own freedom and building new lives for themselves and their children, in sustaining Canada West as a beacon of freedom for others still enslaved in the American South, and in combatting race prejudice, which at times differed little from that prevailing south of the border.

Keywords:   Canada West, Ontario, Fugitive slaves, Refugees, Free soil

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