Press Release: First US/Canada Memorial of an Underground Railroad Journey
When? April 26, 2001 and April 29, 2002 Time? 10:30 a.m. (both)
Where? Louisville, Kentucky (NW corner of 4th & Main St.) and Toronto, Ontario (Eastern Avenue at Sackville street, in the Sackville Street School playground)
Why? To mark the beginning and end of the remarkable 1831 Underground Railroad Journey of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn from Louisville to Canada � and - to establish a Kentucky �Canada Underground Railroad Research Trail.
On April 26 and April 29, 2002, respectively, historic markers will be placed in Louisville, Kentucky, and in Toronto to commemorate the journey of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn from slavery to freedom. This is the first joint Canada/US designation of the beginning and end of an Underground Railroad journey. The Kentucky marker will be placed at 4th & Main, in downtown Louisville.
Archaeologists brought the first clues to the Blackburn story to light in a 1985 public archaeology project by the Toronto District School Board, the Ontario Black History Society and the Ontario Ministry of Culture. More than 3,000 school children and members of the public helped uncover the remains of Thornton and Lucie�s shotgun house. Popular fascination with their tale of courage and initiative resulted in international media attention and literally thousands of visitors to the downtown site.
The Thornton and Lucie Blackburn Site was the first fugitive slave home ever excavated in Canada. Archaeologist Karolyn Smardz has spent the past 16 years gathering information for a biography about the Blackburns� experience. The book will detail their escape and subsequent recapture in Detroit, their rescue during that city's first racial riots, the refusal of Canada to extradite the couple in face of strong US pressure, their lifelong commitment to helping other fugitives settle in new homes in Canada, and to alleviating the effects of racial oppression.
Most recently the research has been assisted by the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission, and especially with Dr. Anne Butler, and the Center of Excellence for the Study of Kentucky African Americans at Kentucky State University. It is out of this partnership that the idea of a joint commemorative project was initiated. The sponsoring organizations are: The Kentucky African American Heritage Commission, Kentucky African American Heritage Foundation in Louisville, Kentucky, Education, Arts and Humanities Cabinet, Kentucky Heritage Council, Kentucky Historical Society and Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky; the Department of Canadian Heritage, Historic Sites and Monuments Commission of Canada, Ontario Black History Society and the Toronto District School Board.
A delegation of Canadian dignitaries, including the Minister of Canadian Heritage (or designee), the Toronto District School Board, the Ontario Black History Society and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, will travel to Louisville, Kentucky to participate in the day-long series of events that surround the commemoration of the Blackburns� historic leap to freedom. A similar delegation of Kentuckians will travel to Toronto for the Unveiling Ceremony scheduled for Monday, April 29, 2002, at the site of the Blackburns� home.
The Louisville Marker Dedication event is followed by an invitational luncheon at Vincenzo�s and a panel discussion leading to the establishment of a Kentucky � Canada Underground Railroad Research Trail. Dr. Afua Cooper, Historian/Consultant with Parks Canada, and lecturer at the Department of History Atkinson College, York University and Ryerson University is the keynote speaker for the luncheon.
Contacts? Dr. Anne S. Butler, Center of Excellence for the Study of Kentucky African Americans, Kentucky State University (502) 597-6315 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Karolyn Smardz, Archaeologist and Historian, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada (519) 922-3421 or Ksmardz@aol.com