Historical plaque updated to 'recentre' Black experience in story of Buxton

·2 min read
Chatham-Kent councillor Anthony Ceccacci, Buxton museum curator Shannon Prince and Chatham-Kent mayor Darrin Canniff appear next to the new Buxton plaque on July 20, 2022. (Submitted by the Ontario Heritage Trust - image credit)
Chatham-Kent councillor Anthony Ceccacci, Buxton museum curator Shannon Prince and Chatham-Kent mayor Darrin Canniff appear next to the new Buxton plaque on July 20, 2022. (Submitted by the Ontario Heritage Trust - image credit)

A roadside plaque commemorating the Buxton settlement, one of Ontario's early Black communities, has been revised to put more focus on the residents and how they built up the community.

Since 1965, the old plaque had stood at the corner of Middle Line and A.D. Shadd Road in South Buxton, which is located in Chatham-Kent, Ont. It was replaced with a brand new one during a ceremony held on Wednesday afternoon.

The revised text is meant to "remove outdated terminology and recentre the Black experience," the Ontario Heritage Trust says.

Historian Adrienne Shadd, who is from Buxton, is the author and researcher behind the new plaque.

In addition to removing some language, including the word "slave" to refer to enslaved peoples, the revised text places emphasis on the contributions and agency of the people who settled in Buxton.

"I just tried to show that, you know, it's wasn't just Reverend King who established this settlement, and it wasn't just his achievement," Shadd said.

"It was the people that he brought there and who came there of their own volition who really set the standard and were the people who made it a success."

Submitted by the Ontario Heritage Trust
Submitted by the Ontario Heritage Trust

Buxton was founded in 1849 by Presbyterian minister Rev. William King, who arrived from Louisiana with 15 people who were formerly enslaved.

The community became a haven for freedom seekers and Black people who were free. At its highest point, the population grew to more than 1,000.

They established farms, roads, a sawmill, a brickyard, a hotel, potash and pearl-ash factories, a general store and more.

"Most notable was the Mission School, which was integrated and provided a classical education. Graduates went on to become teachers, doctors, lawyers and politicians," the plaque says.

LISTEN: Shannon Prince joins Windsor Morning 

Shannon Prince is the curator of the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, which is about 5 kilometres away from where the plaque is located. Prince says the new text provides a good snapshot of the settlement and its history.

"It's powerful, but it's also honouring the people who cleared the land, settled and built the businesses, etc. So it's a tribute to them and the people that are still here. So, it's great to see."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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