The Hudson Historical Society presents “Unfree” – Slaves and Captives in Canada on Monday, May 14, at 7:30 p.m. at St. James Church Hall, 642 Main Road, Hudson. This will be the last monthly meeting until September. This year the world marks the 200th anniversary of the passing of the “Abolition of the Slave Trade Bill” by the British Parliament. From that time on the slave trade was abolished throughout the Empire. The British navy was authorized to fine ships caught trafficking humans £100 per slave found on board. It would take more than another half-century and a civil war to end slavery in the United States. Canadians, knowing that our country was an important Underground Railway terminal, sometimes think that we occupied the moral high ground regarding the odious practice of treating certain humans as property. In fact, our record is mixed. Slavery existed in our history, beginning in New France and continuing into the British colonial era. Not only Africans but “panis,” native North Americans, spent their lives controlled by others. A number of people well-known in Canadian history were slaveholders. Historian Marcel Trudel notes that in the parish of Vaudreuil, which includes present-day Hudson, four natives and five blacks lived as slaves. Slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire only in 1833. At the next meeting of the Hudson Historical Society we will mark this anniversary year by looking at slavery as it existed here in Canada, and especially in the Montreal area. Most slaves toiled in obscurity, but the stories of a few, such as the tragic Marie-Joseph Angélique are known. We will also look at another group, who were snatched from their workaday lives as free people in New England and found themselves captives in New France. Some of them (e.g. Catherine Kigileke Sabourin, born Sarah Hanson in Dover, New Hampshire) have local connections as well.
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