Black History Month
In 1793, enslaved black woman Chloe Cooley was bound and put into a boat to be transported and sold in the States. Peter Martin, a free black man, noticed her struggle and brought the matter and a witness to Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. Simcoe, who supported the abolition of enslavement, used the incident as a catalyst to introduce the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada.
The motion to pass the act was rejected by the House of Assembly as some of its members were slave owners themselves. However, the government compromised and passed “an act to prevent the further introduction of slaves, and to limit the term of contract for their servitude” in the province.
Even as enslaved persons were not freed automatically, the act worked to prohibit the importation of enslaved people in Upper Canada and also allowed the gradual abolition of enslavement. As the first act in the British Empire limiting enslavement, it set a trail for the beginnings of the Underground Railroad.