When Henry Bibb strode to the head of an anti-slavery meeting, people fell silent, anxious to miss not a word of his story… How, as a slave, he’d been forced to choose between freedom and family. How he had fled to safety, only to return, again and again, trying to rescue his family. How, tragically, he had failed.

Mary Bibb’s story was different. She was the child of free Blacks, well educated, a trained teacher. She met her husband-to-be in 1848, at an anti-slavery rally in New York City. They married and came to Canada in search of a haven from which to organize their campaign against slavery.

Henry and Mary Bibb had only six years together, but what a difference they made. He traveled and spoke widely. She opened a school for Black children. They published a newspaper, Voice of the Fugitive, which reached out with argument, advice and comfort to slaves and abolitionists alike. In its heyday, it was the most important Abolitionist paper in Canada. They also founded the Refugee Home Society to help refugees to settle, become self-sufficient and learn the rules of freedom.

It was a life of feverish activity, as feverish as the arsonist’s fire that destroyed their newspaper in 1853. Henry Bibb died of a fever the next year. Mary continued to teach in Canada until 1865, after which she returned to the United States.

Janet Uren (WordImage Inc.)
Maggie Fawcett, Claire Brodie, Parks Canada Agency, Multiculturalism Branch / Department of Canadian Heritage

Ontario, CANADA
© 2008, Virtual Museum of Canadas. All Rights Reserved.

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