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Slavery Research

What do you know about slavery? Nothing? Then learn with us and help transform tomorrow by knowing your history.

“The rest of the world knows nothing about Canadian Slavery, because we at home know nothing about Canadian Slavery.”

Prof. Charmaine A. Nelson
BLK: An Origin Story
(episode 1), Hungry Eyes Media, Toronto

 

Did you only hear about the Underground Railroad back in elementary school?

You aren’t alone! Don’t know how Canada fits into the 400-year history of Transatlantic Slavery? See how Charmaine is guiding her students in the study and documentation of Canada’s participation in this complex history. Explore, read, and understand how enmeshed the economic, cultural, legal, and political landscapes of slavery were with everyday life in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Canada.

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Bills of Sale for Enslaved People...

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Bills of Sale

Similar to buying and selling housewares and livestock, during the 400 years of Transatlantic Slavery, people who bought and sold human beings documented these exchanges in writing. These manuscripts, known as bills of sale, were also created in Canada. The bills of sale transcribed and analyzed in this publication were first located and digitized by Prof. Charmaine A. Nelson during her research fieldwork at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BANQ) in Quebec City. She then shared her research with her students in her fourth year undergraduate Art History seminar, “James McGill was a Slave Owner: Slavery and the History of Universities,” (McGill University, Winter 2020) instructing them on how to read and interpret the bills. The following transcriptions and essays are a culmination of that work.

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Bicentenary Recommendations

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Slavery and McGill University: Bicentenary Recommendations

The bicentenary of McGill University was 2021. Despite being the direct result of James McGill’s – enslaver and West Indian merchant – £10,000 bequest, university officials had never acknowledged, critically examined, or redressed these histories and the anti-black, anti-indigenous racism upon which McGill University was founded when these recommendations were first published in July 2020. These recommendations were produced within the context of Prof. Charmaine A. Nelson’s winter 2020 undergraduate course, a seminar entitled: “James McGill was a Slave Owner: Slavery and the History of Universities”. As the bicentenary of McGill University approached (2021), it became apparent that McGill’s upper administration was not going to capitalize upon this important milestone to strike a task force or working group to investigate the university’s profound and indisputable historical links to slavery. In the absence of such leadership and support, Charmaine took it upon herself to work with her dedicated McGill students to produce these recommendations. The nineteen students who enrolled in this class (eighteen undergraduates and one PhD) demonstrated a level of commitment, not merely to academic engagement, but to social justice, far beyond the average university student. However, this groundbreaking research is not meant to replace the long-overdue internal work that the leadership of McGill University still needs to undertake.

Slavery Tour of Montreal

This Slavery Tour of Montreal (which includes one site in Quebec City) has been prepared by some of the dedicated and passionate students who completed the fourth-year seminar: “James McGill was Slave Owner: Slavery and the History of Universities” with Prof. Charmaine A. Nelson during her last semester working at McGill University (Montreal) in the winter of 2020. The tour allows Canadians and visitors alike to explore and contemplate one of Canada’s best kept secrets, its role in the 400-year history of Transatlantic Slavery.

Use + and – symbols to expand and contract the map, then click on red markers to read articles on different sites.

Joseph Frobisher: The Beaver Club (1785-1827), Montreal

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“Le Couvent”: Marguerite d'Youville, the Grey Nuns, and the Hôpital Général, Montreal

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H. L. Gordan: The Montreal Mechanics’ Institute

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William Campbell: Public Slave Auctions at Place Royale, Montreal

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Pierre Raimbault: 147 Rue Saint Paul, Montreal

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Marie-Joseph Angélique: Notre-Dame de Montreal

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Betsey Freeman: 80 Rue Saint Paul, Montreal

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Alexander Grant: 80 Rue Saint-Paul, Montreal

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Thérèse Francheville: The Franchevilles’ House, Montreal

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Mathieu Leveillé - Enslaved Black Executioners: Place Vauquelin & Nelson's Column, Montreal

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Video Catalogue

This Video Catalogue was created by undergraduate and graduate students from NSCAD University (Halifax) and the University of New Brunswick (Fredericton) in the seminar “Sites of Erasure: Exploring Temperate Climate, Slave Minority Societies” with Prof. Charmaine A. Nelson at NSCAD University in the winter of 2022. Charmaine trained them in the selection, research, and analysis of various art, artifacts, and documents of relevance to the histories of slavery in Canada and other understudied regions.