Outcry after new plaque honoring abolitionists Mary and Henry Bibb stolen from park

·3 min read
The pedestal in Mary E. Bibb Park where the plaque honoring Mary E. Bibb and her husband Henry was once displayed. (Sanjay Maru/CBC - image credit)
The pedestal in Mary E. Bibb Park where the plaque honoring Mary E. Bibb and her husband Henry was once displayed. (Sanjay Maru/CBC - image credit)

The theft of a plaque honoring abolitionists and publishers Mary and Henry Bibb at Mary E. Bibb Park has community members and police saying that what was stolen is much more than the monetary value of the memorial.

Police say the plaque was reported missing March 26. The city had restored the plaque in February to coincide with the park's renaming from Mackenzie Hall Park to Mary E. Bibb Park, in Sandwich Town, during Black History Month.

Mary E. Bibb, who was born a freed slave in Rhode Island, moved to Windsor with her husband Henry in 1850. The next year in the southwestern Ontario city, they first published The Voice of the Fugitive, an anti-slavery newspaper.

Const. Darius Goze of Windsor police said the plaque was stolen off its display pedestal.

"The cost of operating and restoring the plaque was over $6,000, but obviously the value is far more worth than that," he said in an interview. "Mary and Henry Bibb are one of Canada's most influential couples of African descent, and they fought for equality and freedom in Canada."

Mary E. Bibb Park, named in February, is next to Mackenzie Hall on Sandwich Street in Windsor.
Mary E. Bibb Park, named in February, is next to Mackenzie Hall on Sandwich Street in Windsor.(Jacob Barker/CBC)

He said police are investigating, but wouldn't say if there were any leads.

"We are looking to get more information from the public to assist us in this investigation," he said.

Police are asking anyone with information to call CrimeStoppers.

Disappointment and hurt

The symbolic value of the plaque has community members disappointed that someone would steal it.

Shantelle Browning-Morgan, secretary for the Essex County Black Historical Research Society and a high school teacher in Windsor, said she saw news of the theft just before she went to bed.

"It was difficult to sleep after that," she said. "Just the disrespect and the dishonoring of their memory. Because the plaque is there to honor their legacy and to allow us to appreciate and understand that past and learn some of their story."

Shantelle Browning-Morgan of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society says she hopes the plaque can be recovered and, if not, replaced.
Shantelle Browning-Morgan of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society says she hopes the plaque can be recovered and, if not, replaced.(Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Browning-Morgan hopes the plaque will soon return to its rightful place — and if it isn't, that it will be replaced.

"It's really upsetting that someone doesn't really understand the value of that, and hopefully the person who took it does understand who and what the plaque represents and is able to return it without damage," she said.

"My hope is that the plaque would be replaced. As it should be — there needs to be some type of heritage marker there to honour their story, their legacy, their memory."

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.

<cite>(CBC)</cite>
(CBC)