2010 Annual US/Canadian Genealogy Conference

13th Annual US/Canadian Genealogy Conference in Buxton, Ontario: September 3, 2010


In 2010, the Annual US/Canadian Genealogy Conference received wide, varied and international support. Among the presenters were Robert Smith (Director, Collections and Exhibitions) and Jennifer Duckworth (Underground Railroad Coordinator), both of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan: their presentation “Reaching out to Freedom Initiatives: The Cooperative Underground Railroad Education Partnership and The History of Second Baptist Church of Detroit Project” inspired a great deal of discussion at the conference.

On this occasion of the Buxton conference, one of the other programmes associated with the S.P.A.C.E. Initiative was also showcased: ”Conversations with Harriet Tubman”, presented by Shiemara Hogarth. Shiemara used the opportunity to “become” Tubman, to talk about her life and to inspire conversations about the experiences of persons of African descent in the nineteenth century. This was especially appropriate given the traditional focus of the conference.

Also at this conference, there were presentations from two York University students who presented on a students’ panel. Denise Myame’s presentation, “ Sacrifice Must Be Made: A case study of two Ghanaian Women and their Migratory Experience” and John Haraschuk’s presentation “Black Civil Rights Organizations in Canada: A Fight for Equality” both made the point that the history of African Canadian agency and resistance throughout the 20th century have been marked by frustration, adversity and triumph.

Given its long connection with the UNESCO Slave Route Project, the Harriet Tubman Institute used the opportunity of the conference to show and promote the UNESCO sponsored documentary, Slave Routes: A Global Vision which presents the diverse histories and heritages stemming from the global tragedy of the slave trade and slavery. Aimed at a general audience, it provides an overview of the massive deportation of African populations to different parts of the world including the Americas, Europe, the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, and Asia. This documentary, which highlights the African presence across continents, the significant contributions of persons in the African Diaspora to the host societies in various fields (arts, religion, knowledge, gastronomy, agriculture, linguistics, etc.) and the racism and discrimination inherited form this tragic past, goes well beyond the trauma of slavery and emphasizes slave resistance and resilience in surviving such a dehumanizing system. It was well received by the conferees at the Buxton conference.

The documentary, Forgotten Black Civil War Soldiers and Sailors,  was also featured at the conference. It was presented by the producer of the project, Jeff O’Den. According to Mr. O’Den:

As the 150th anniversary of the Civil War approaches in 2011, “Forgotten Black Civil War Soldiers” − an extraordinary television documentary − currently in postproduction− has captured on tape contributions made by black soldiers & sailors in the Civil War. “Forgotten…” is a true life story about black men in a war that touched the lives of a lot of people. Of the 230,000 black soldiers and sailors in the Civil War, nearly 40,000 died over the course of the war.

This amazing film shows black leaders petitioning President Lincoln to allow blacks to fight in the Civil War. Then, once accepted, they fight with determination to preserve the Union; earn their freedom; and the right to full citizenship in the United States. But, most importantly, they fight to rid the country from the evils of slavery.

The 2010 Buxton Conference also presented an opportunity for persons interested in the African Canadian experience to hear from Debbi Beaver and Myrna Wisdom who were representing the Black Settlers of Alberta and Saskatchewan Historical Society, based in Edmonton. These two descendants of African American settlers who migrated to western Canada in the early 20th century highlighted the results of their oral history project which focuses on the memories and experiences of Black setters in Amber Valley and other places in western Canada.

As is always the case, the Buxton Conference was inspiring for everyone who attended. We hope that S.P.A.C.E./Tubman Institute will be able to keep this important collaboration going, well into the future.