Toronto Public Library Homepage

Toronto Reference Library Exhibits

Freedom City: Uncovering Toronto’s Black History

January 31 to March 29, 2015

TD Gallery, Main Level, Toronto Reference Library

News release

Virtual Exhibit

Toronto Public Library is pleased to announce a new exhibition, Freedom City: Uncovering Toronto’s Black History that celebrates the early black citizens of Toronto. Through original paintings, drawings, photographs, manuscripts and broadsides, Freedom City, covers the history of black Toronto – from the days of early settlement to the end of the 19th century. The exhibit has been enhanced by the research and contributions of prominent Canadian historians and authors Karolyn Smardz Frost and Afua Cooper.

Generously sponsored by TD Bank.

Exhibition Highlights:

  • British Imperial Act of 1790 which allowed Loyalists and others moving to Canada to bring their slaves with them – tax free!
  • A letter from a fugitive slave, Henry Lewis, offering to purchase his freedom from his former owner, William Jarvis.
  • The earliest known photograph of an African Canadian woman in Toronto.
  • Photographs of Anderson Ruffin Abbott, the first black doctor in Canada, honoured by Mary Todd Lincoln for his service during the American Civil War.
  • School registers and prize lists showing African Canadian students excelling in their studies.
  • Portrait of William Peyton Hubbard, the only black deputy mayor in the history of Toronto (on loan from the City of Toronto Art Collection, Heritage & Museums Services).
  • A video featuring historian Afua Cooper tracing the development and importance of the Underground Railroad in Canada.

photo from inside TD Gallery
photo from inside TD Gallery