On March 24, 2021, the House of Commons voted unanimously to officially designate Aug. 1 Emancipation Day. It marks the actual day in 1834 that the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 came into effect across the British Empire.
Aug. 1, 2022, will mark the second federally recognized Emancipation Day in Canada — a day that honours the long legacy and contribution of Black Canadians and the commitment to unlearning anti-Black racism and pushing for a more just society. Canadians are not always aware that Black and Indigenous Peoples were once enslaved on the land that is now Canada. Those who fought enslavement were pivotal in shaping our society to be as diverse as it is today.
Although the day just recently received federal recognition, the Windsor-Essex region played a significant role in celebrating Emancipation Day from the day’s inception, but most notably in the 1930s to the late 1960s. Known as “The Greatest Freedom Show on Earth,” Windsor’s Emancipation Day celebrations drew crowds from across Canada and the United States. For decades, Windsor’s Emancipation Day celebration during the first weekend in August included notable civil rights activists, performing artists, and Miss Sepia beauty contestants from across North America to downtown Windsor’s Jackson Park.
Through its commitments to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion, the University of Windsor has begun to take important steps to address the systemic inequities on campus. There is still much work to be done to ensure everyone feels like they belong.
“With such a deep history in the Windsor-Essex region, the University of Windsor community is proud to honour Emancipation Day,” said UWindsor president Robert Gordon.
“On this day, faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to reflect on the contributions of the Black community, to learn more about the federally recognized day, and recommit to combatting anti-Black racism as we continue to work towards building a more inclusive campus where everyone feels welcome.”
“As we celebrate Emancipation Day, let us commit to bold and reparative social justice,” said Clinton Beckford, vice-president of equity, diversity, and inclusion. “Although the institution of slavery officially ended in slave colonies in the British empire after more than 300 years in some places on Aug. 1, 1834, the legacy of African enslavement reverberates today.”
In-person events are taking place across Windsor-Essex to commemorate Emancipation Day:
- Thursday, July 28: Capitol Theatre's Film Screening of Mr. Emancipation: The Walter Perry Story
- Friday, July 29: Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s Emancipation Celebration Dinner and Dance
- Saturday, July 30 to Monday, Aug. 1: The Black Council of Windsor-Essex's Emancipation Jubilee 2022 (sponsored by the Office of the Vice-President, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion)
Kaitlyn Ellsworth, Black student support co-ordinator, collaborated with the Leddy Library to compile a non-exhaustive collection of Canadian Emancipation Day materials that includes historical texts, scholarly articles, media articles, videos, and more.