I can’t keep the tears from springing to my eyes, or my throat from constricting so much I think I might stop breathing. Shannon Prince, curator of the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, has just put a pair of actual shackles used on an actual human being into my hands, and the sobs well up from nowhere.
The community of Buxton, just south of Chatham, Ontario, represented freedom for those who had been enslaved and made it north to Canada via the Underground Railroad. Former slaves and free Black Americans settled in the village, which was founded by Rev. William King in 1849 as a place where his people could find dignity and fellowship. Its outstanding school educated generations of youngsters, and descendants of the original residents still live in the area today.