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Apr. 7, 2020 | Tuesday
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Stories of black history in NOTL: Solomon Moseby
The owner of this NOTL house, William Steward, signed a petition for the release of runaway slave Solomon Moseby. His wife Susannah might have been among the women blockading the carriage that Moseby was to be transported in, though no documentation exists to prove her participation. (File photo)

By Shawna Butts / NOTL Museum

Special to The Lake Report

Before the American Civil War, thousands of people enslaved in the southern United States escaped to find freedom in Canada. Regrettably, not all those who sought freedom were granted it.

In 1837, a slave owner from Kentucky came to Niagara demanding the arrest of his slave, Solomon Moseby, for the crime of horse-theft; a capital crime in the United States. Moseby was imprisoned in the Niagara jail, where he was to stay until transportation could be arranged back to America.

African Canadians knew that Moseby would be enslaved once again or, worse, face death for his alleged crimes. In order to prevent extradition, residents, both black and white, signed petitions protesting his return. In the days following Moseby’s arrest, more than 200 supporters from communities across the Niagara region gathered in protest at the jail.

On the day Moseby was to be taken to America, a riot occurred. Herbert Holmes and Jacob Green were killed trying to prevent the wagon from leaving. In the commotion, Moseby escaped. To this day Solomon Moseby’s case has influenced Canada’s extradition and refugee policies.

For more information on Niagara-on-the-Lake’s black history and to learn more about the story of Solomon Moseby, please visit vofpark.org.

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