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February 8, 2006
The Blackburns and their role in Toronto’s history
The City of Toronto is hosting a lunch time address on the unique role of Lucie and Thornton Blackburn in Toronto’s history as part of a series of events celebrating Black History Month, which was officially proclaimed by Toronto City Council in 1979.

The Blackburns arrived in Toronto in 1834 following their rescue from a jail cell by black residents during the first race riots in Detroit’s history. In their new-found home in Toronto, Lucie and Thornton Blackburn started the City’s first taxi business soon after their arrival, donated money to build Little Trinity Anglican Church and devoted their money and time to the black self-help movement. For over 50 years, the Blackburns lived in a one-storey frame house which was discovered by archaeologists in 1985 at Sackville Street School. Their impact on the urban landscape of Toronto led to their designation of “Persons of National Historic Significance” by the Canadian government in 1999.

Their story is chronicled by Dr. Karolyn Smardz Frost in her forthcoming book “I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land,” and will be retold during her luncheon address which is open to members of the public and City employees. This free, bring-your lunch event, will take place on Monday, February 13 at Toronto City Hall, Members’ Lounge at noon.

The history of Canadians of African descent has been central to the history of Toronto and Ontario where slave labour continued until 1793 when Governor Simcoe, the founder of the Town of York, set the children of slaves free at the age of 25 and prohibited the extension of the slave trade into Upper Canada. This reinforced Toronto’s link in the “underground railroad” to freedom.

“African-Canadian Torontonians have always been an important part of this city and its history,” said Toronto Mayor David Miller. “We must never forget the courage and bravery of all those who helped build a free Toronto and forged the underground rail road to bring an end to slavery.”

In 2006 the City of Toronto is honouring Black History Month with exhibits, theatrical performances and readings at various locations throughout Toronto. For more information on Black History Month visit the City of Toronto’s website at

Media contact:

Lorraine Giles
Diversity Management and Community Engagement
City Manager’s Office



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