At the end of Chapter Eight, Caroline finds out from Methodist circuit rider Sam Davis that Edward, an escaped slave her family had harbored, made it as far as Ohio in his journey to freedom. In 1850, Ohio was a free state but in some parts, especially southern Ohio, free black people were far from welcomed. Many went on to Canada via the Underground Railroad.
In 1829, Cincinnati city officials were alarmed by the great number of black immigrants arriving and settling there. At around the turn of the 19th Century, Ohio lawmakers had instituted “black laws,” which required black people to “post bond of $500 guaranteeing good behavior and to produce a court paper as proof that they were free.” Although the black laws were not often used in Northern Ohio, Cincinnatians began strictly enforcing them in the 1820s, making it much more difficult for free black people–escaped slaves and others–to live in Southern Ohio. The anti-immigration laws gave newly arrived blacks only 30 days to provide the money and paper, and if they failed to do so, they were kicked out of the state.
Around that time, a group of black Ohioans traveled north to Canada to seek out places to live where they could truly be free. Upper Canada Lieutenant Governor John Colborne extended an open welcome to the Americans.
“Tell the Republicans on your side of the line that we royalists do not know men by their color. Should you come to us you will be entitled to all the privileges of the rest of His Majesty’s subjects.”
Not all history lessons we’ve been taught follow escapees to their free homes in Canada. That’s why I find this video so worth viewing. Khari McClelland, a young man raised in Detroit now living in Vancouver, has researched and revived slave songs he found in libraries. His great-great-great-grandmother Kizzy traveled the Underground Railroad to Canadian freedom and he was so moved by her courageous spirit, he joined a singing group, The Sojourners, to perform those forgotten songs. The video, produced by CBC Radio, includes Khari’s story along with some concert excerpts.