Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac.
Image: Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac.

1701: Slaves Put to Work at Cadillac's Fort Pontchartrain
In 1701, the ambitious French fur-trader and colonizer Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac established Fort Pontchartrain on the shores of the Detroit River. Black slaves were among its first inhabitants.

1709: Louis XIV Formally Authorizes Slavery in New France
King Louis XIV formally authorized slavery in 1709, when he permitted his Canadian subjects to own slaves, "in full proprietorship." There were fewer slave-owners in New France than in the neighbouring English colonies, and few French colonists openly questioned the long-standing practice.

Marie-Joseph Angélique set fire to her owner's house 
in order to cover her escape (courtesy Black Studies Centre, Montreal).
Image: Marie-Joseph Angélique set fire to her owner's house in order to cover her escape (courtesy Black Studies Centre, Montreal)

Spring 1734: Angélique Tortured and Hanged
Marie-Joseph Angélique allegedly set fire to her master's house and destroyed nearly 50 homes. She was tortured and hanged as an object lesson for all Blacks.

1760: Provisions for Preserving Slave Ownership in Articles of Capitulation
When the British conquered New France in 1760, the Articles of Capitulation stated that Blacks and Pawnee Indians would remain slaves.

7 November 1775: Lord Dunmore's Declaration
With armed rebellion inevitable, Virginia's Governor Lord Dunmore declared martial law in his colony and decreed that  "every person capable of bearing arms" including "indentured servants, negroes, or others" must report for duty.  More than 300 Black men joined the "Ethiopian Regiment." 

Watercolour by Robert Petley, courtesy Library and Archives Canada
Image: After the War of 1812, over 500 Black people were settled at Hammonds Plains. This painting, c1835, shows a Black family on the Hammonds Plains Road, with Bedford Basin in the background.(watercolour by Robert Petley, courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-115424).

10 May 1776: Black Corps Formed
Many Blacks actively participated in the American Revolutionary War, serving as boatmen, woodsmen, general labourers, buglers and musicians. General Henry Clinton formed a corps of free Blacks, called the Black Pioneers.

1776 : "Free Negroes" Reach Nova Scotia
Canada developed a reputation as a safe haven for Blacks during the American Revolution, 1775-1783. The British promised land, freedom and rights to slaves and free Blacks in exchange for services rendered. Some of the Black Loyalists to reach Nova Scotia belonged to the "Company of Negroes," who left Boston with British troops.

30 June 1777: Clinton's Philipsburg Proclamation
Sir Henry Clinton encouraged enslaved Blacks to desert rebel masters, promising them freedom and shelter. British Commander-in-Chief Sir Guy Carleton guaranteed that all slaves who formally requested British protection would be freed. An estimated 100, 000 Blacks fled to the British side during the American Revolution.

October 1781: Loyalist Reverend John Stuart Brings Slaves to Québec
Many Loyalists who settled in Upper Canada saw no conflict between the institution of slavery and their moral beliefs. The Reverend John Stuart of Kingston, the first minister of the Church of England in Upper Canada, recorded in his diary that he brought Black slaves with him from the Mohawk Valley.

An anonymous slave woman (courtesy Northwind Picture Archives).
Image: An anonymous slave woman (courtesy Northwind Picture Archives).

1 July 1782: Enslaved Sylvia Defends Colonel Creighton
When Lunenburg, Nova Scotia was invaded by American soldiers, Colonel John Creighton's servant Sylvia rose to his defense. Sylvia shuttled cartridges in her apron from Creighton's house to the fort where he and his soldiers were engaged in battle. She also protected the Colonel's son and valuables. Following the battle, Creighton was publicly recognized and rewarded for her heroism.

1784-1792: David George
Baptist preacher David George was a Black Loyalist from Virginia. He settled in Shelburne, Nova Scotia in 1784 and began preaching in neighbouring Birchtown. His emotional sermons drew both Black and White Christians. Using only Black community funds, George founded several Black Baptist churches and initiated a "self-help" movement that still exists.

White soldiers drove the blacks out of Shelburne.
Image: White soldiers drove the Blacks out of Shelburne.

26-27 July 1784: Canada's First Race-Riot Rocks Birchtown
After the Revolutionary War, the "Black Pioneers" were among the first settlers in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. They helped build the new settlement. On its fringes they established their own community, "Birchtown." When hundreds of White, disbanded soldiers were forced to accept work at rates competitive with their Black neighbours the ensuing hostility caused a riot.

artwork by Richard Bridgens 1836, courtesy Library of Congress
Image: "Negro Frolicks" were banned in the town of Shelburne (artwork by Richard Bridgens 1836, courtesy Library of Congress).

12 May 1785: "Negro Frolicks" Prohibited
Officials in Nova Scotia ordered "50 Handbills [to] be immediately printed forbidding Negro Dances and Negro Frolicks in [the] town of Shelburne."

13 July 1787: NorthWest Ordinance Passed
In 1787, the new United States passed the NorthWest Ordinance, the first anti-slavery law in North America, which applied to its NorthWest Territory, where government authority was not clearly defined. The area was simultaneously "free" American territory and part of a larger, British "slave" province.

1790: Imperial Statute
The Imperial Statute of 1790 effectively allowed settlers to bring enslaved persons to Upper Canada. Under the statute, the enslaved had only to be fed and clothed. Any child born of enslaved parents became free at age 25 and anyone who released someone from bondage had to ensure that he/she could be financially independent.

Slave auctioning
Image: Slave auctioning continued in Canada even after the American War of Independence.

July 1791: Slave Case Heard at NS Court
Freedom for Black people was elusive, regardless of the promises made by the British at the end of the American War of Independence. Enslaved woman Mary Postell took her "owner," Jesse Gray, to court, twice for stealing her children. He was found not guilty, even though he had sold her and her daughter. 

15 January 1792: The Black Loyalist Exodus
The difficulty of supporting themselves in the face of widespread discrimination convinced many Black Loyalists that they would never find true freedom and equality in Nova Scotia. When offered the opportunity to leave the colony in the 1790s, almost 1200 Blacks left Halifax to relocate to Sierra Leone.

John Graves Simcoe, courtesy Metropolitan Toronto Library
Image: John Graves Simcoe, first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, helped to abolish slavery in Canada in 1793 (courtesy Metropolitan Toronto Library).

21 March 1793: The Cooley Case
Upper Canadians were shocked when Chloë Cooley, an enslaved girl from Queenstown, was beaten and bound by her owner and sold to an American. Brought before Upper Canada's Executive Council 21 March 1793, English law made prosecution impossible. The incident convinced Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe that the abolition of slavery was necessary.

19 June 1793: Simcoe's Anti-Slave Trade Bill
When Simcoe left England to take up his appointment as the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, he pledged never to support discriminatory laws.  On 19 June 1793, Attorney General White introduced Simcoe's anti-slavery measure and it passed, although it was not a total ban on slavery but a gradual prohibition. 

1794: Black Loyalists Petition for All-Black Settlement in UC
In 1794, based on their military service in the war between Great Britain and America, 19 free Blacks in the Niagara area petitioned Governor Simcoe for a grant of land to establish an all-Black settlement. The petition was rejected. In 1819 the government established Oro Settlement near Barrie.

Leonard Parkinson (courtesy Nova Scotia Archives/N-6202)
Image: Leonard Parkinson, a captain of the Maroons (courtesy Nova Scotia Archives/N-6202).

22 July 1796: The Maroons Land at Halifax
On 22 July 1796, a group of 600 freedom-fighters landed at Halifax. These immigrants, called Maroons, came from the Jamaican community of escaped slaves, who had guarded their freedom for more than a century and fought off countless attempts to re-enslave them.

1799: Papineau Presents Citizens' Petition to Abolish Slavery in Lower Canada
In 1799, Joseph Papineau (father of Louis-Joseph Papineau) presented a citizens' petition asking the government to abolish slavery, prompting a series of anti-slavery measures. While these bills were defeated, a movement towards the abolition of slavery was clearly under way in Lower Canada.