tv Canadian Border During Reconstruction CSPAN August 14, 2019 11:54am-12:08pm EDT
to where we are today. thank you all very much. [ applause ] all week we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. elect the you're thes in history. american artifacts. real america. the civil war. oral histories. the presidency. and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on c-span 3. week nights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. tonight a look at a recent conference held at purdue
university titled u.s. politics and government from the earliest days of the american republic. american history tv airs at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 3. adam, the title of your paper here at the meeting is "crossing the border after the underground railroad, african-american north americans returning from canada." why was slaves trying to escape to canada and how were they able to do that? >> so, the underground railroad really is a whole set of things together. it's boats. it's some rails. it's roads. it was people trying to get out of serving, finding where they can be safe. sometimes it was just in the northern states. sometimes mexico. most famously to go to canada, being in a different country and be free from the chance they
could get recaptured and brought back to slavery. >> what was that journey like? where are slaves at this time and how are they making that journey into canada? >> in the decades before the civil war slaves are every where in the united states. we think most of them being in the south, mostly in rural place. enslaved people are in cities, brought into northern cities. some are even rented into the west and the northwest. and so they are really every where and often they would take the opportunity when they saw one either working with a network of people or by themselves to escape slavery and to seek that freedom they can find. >> what is the story that stands out to you in your research of the slave making that journey? >> my research is really focused on what happens after they are already in canada, but one of the settlements in what becomes canada is the town of buxton. a minister takes a group of enslaved people from the south
and decides slavery is no longer ethical and he'll go to ontario and sit up a new community. >> what is life-like for them? you say setting up communities. what does that entail? >> so, these are places where there were not a lot of euro-americans. they may have been native settlements. they are homesteads. rural communities. agricultural communities. they are also people who escape slavery and go to toronto, montreal. it's a very die severe set of experiences north of the border and i'm trying to really find people who were in all of these places. >> what is their life-like there compared to if they had stayed and gone somewhere else in the united states? >> right. so with fusion of slave act in 1850 people began to feel the north isn't safe. they begin to think people will get kidnapped out of northern
cities and they can't be safe in ohio or new york, that they need to go into canada. similarly with the dred scott case there's a sense there's no such thing as free territory, whether it's california or illinois, people need to get out of that and move to a completely different country. they see canada to have a chance to have freedom they can have in the united states. >> what is their life-like? what sort of freedoms do they have? how are they living their lives? >> they are trying to make at any time best they can. there's a group in the farm communities starting to farm the same things they farmed in the south, tobacco being grown, in ontario in this case. in toronto people are doing domestic work. people are trying to find opportunities to go to school and move up. and there's actually a good to go to british columbia and get involved with the gold rush out there and seek their fortune out
on that coast. >> do they return to the united states and when? what time? >> so we think of the underground railroad and then we think of the civil war and take the eye off the people who are involved in the underground railroad. they continued to live into much later into the 19th century. a lot came back to the united states. some come to northern cities like chicago and detroit and buffalo. some of them go to washington, d.c., which during the civil war and reconstruction is a major place for african-americans. some of them go all the way back into southern communities and try to reconnect people they've known or find groups that are in position to make change and be part of that change. i'm tracking all kinds of moments back out of canada after the underground railroad. >> why do they want to come back and what gives them hope? >> a lot of them thought themselves as members of the u.s. they wanted to be united states citizens and slavery was making that point.
with the civil war and end of slavery there are a number of political leaders who say this is our chance. we're going to go and be part of a reconstruction government. we'll be part of the opportunity for black people to have equal rights in the united states. >> what's it like for those former slaves returning versus the people who had stayed in the united states and then were freed? do they have different lives? >> that's a big question for this project. i really have to figure out how to understand people who had been like the community in boston or the community in upstate new york and whether the experience of being in canada and being under the british empire, having a different education system, different set of rights how that impacts how people work together. it's ongoing research and i'm trying to figure that out. some people felt very free and safe in boston or in new york or chicago. but others really felt there was something different about being in canada. i want gave them an opportunity to think of themselves as
british or as americans, think of themselves as citizens of the world and i'm sorting it all out. >> in your initial research, have you seen what these returning americans expect life to be like? >> so, some of them really hope that the promise of the end of slavery will mean equal rights for all. there was an active journalist in ontario and had been fighting for fugitive slaves and equal rights in canada. she moves to washington, d.c. after the civil war and decides that she wants to go to howard law school and get an education for an african-american woman and fight for d.c. statehood and look for equal rights in the united states. she sees it as a constant civil rights battle. other people come back to the united states because they think it will be better for a job, they don't think it's a big political move. some of those people come from windsor, just across the river
into detroit and they see opportune in michigan that they didn't see in ontario. so there's a whole mix of motives and stories and i'm trying to sort out how to bring those things together. >> what kind of jobs are they returning to in america? >> so, in the late 19th century there are african-americans coming out of canada who specifically are porters on the railroad. and there's some that are working at hotel staff, they are seen as having a british accent or british education and seen as something fancy in wisconsin and niagara falls. but by the turn of the 20th century we actually have, right before the great migration we see william perry the first african-american who works for the ford motor company because he happens to know henry ford. he's from ontario. he's part of this group that comes back from canada into the united states. i feel like the ford company has celebrated perry but haven't told the canadian part of the
story and i'm trying to bring that in and think about these people their border crossing how they structure their lives. >> how do you go about researching this? >> it's an interest progress sees. a lot of these people care where their families are. there's good collections linked to individual families. people didn't necessarily care if they lived in michigan or own or moving from niagara falls, new york to niagara falls on the canadian side. i'm using census records. i'm using family collections. we have lots of interesting photographs of people at picnics and homecoming, having annual reunions with their cousins across the border. i'm looking in newspapers. finding political documents and arguments saying well i spent this time in canada and that's how i think about things dinnerly here. a lot of little pieces of evidence that i'm trying to weave together into a bigger story. some people we know really well and others we don't know at all. >> did the canadian government
keep track who was coming and leaving into the country or are there records there that you are looking at? >> so the u.s. census is interested in the race but don't keep track of religion. canada doesn't mark race but mark religion. i look for people born in canada but black in the u.s. census. in the canadian scene us the you see people born in the united states and ame or baptist, things which they of as traditional african-american church groups. u.s. council, the embassy offices in these little towns that after the civil war in these tiny towns of ontario that are mostly black americans, they set up offices. we can see some of the american government in canada related to these individuals. >> professor, thank you very much. >> thank you. been a pleasure. all week we're featuring
american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. lectures in history. american artifacts. real america. the civil war. oral histories. the presidency. and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on c-span 3. week nights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. tonight a look at a recent conference held at purdue university titled remaking american political history. we'll feature programs from the gathering focusing on u.s. politics and government from the earliest days of the american republic. american history tv airs at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 3.
♪ >> sunday at 9:00 a.m. eastern a washington journal and american history tv live special call in program looking back at woodstock. historian david farber joins us to take your calls. >> drugs matter. but who takes those drugs? why do the dwrurugs have the eft in the '60s and '07s. technology of drugs is imperative in understanding the '60s. what drugs we use at a given period of place and credible ability to change the direction of a given society. >> call in to talk with david farber about the social moments of the '60s leading up to woodstock and its legacy.
woodstock 50 years, sunday at 9:00 a.m. eastern on c-span's washington journal. also live on american history tv on c-span 3. university of washington historian quintard taylor focused on slavery and reconstruction on kansas and missouri before and after the civil war. the kansas city public library hosted this talk. >> let me get settled, organized here. i'm going to just push this over. hope i don't drop it here. i need some room for my lecture. i'm an old-fashioned guy who needs lecture notes. i'll try to squeeze them in here and hopefully they will fit. thank you for that introduction. that was amazing. i didn't know who she