About the Project

Breaking the Chains: Presenting a New Narrative for Canada’s Role in the Underground Railroad seeks to develop and share new research about African Canadian history by mapping out the migrations of the peoples of the African Diaspora who came in search of freedom in the years before the American Civil War.

It is a project dedicated to celebrating African Canadian history, recognizing unsung heroes of the Underground Railroad era, and correcting the very Eurocentric and much-romanticized portrayal of the UGRR that is provided through the mainstream media. Funded through a Public Outreach-Dissemination grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Harriet Tubman Institute at York University has partnered with scholars and educators, community groups, libraries, government agencies and other stakeholders to gather and interpret information about this important part of our nation’s history.

Educators, students and communities benefit because this project is not only innovative, incorporating an advanced technology to make history engaging for students of all ages, but also, most importantly, it delivers an African Canadian-focused experience. Breaking the Chains highlights the African Canadian community’s contribution to the development of important urban and rural centres across what is now Ontario. Furthermore, this project emphasizes the fact that our understanding of African Canadian history is an organic process. New research is taking place today, adding to our understanding and bringing to light new information about our rich and varied past, as old and new narratives continue to be discovered and shared.

Breaking the Chains focuses on four regions in what is now Ontario:

 Niagara Region
• Essex County
• Queen’s Bush (central Bruce Peninsula including Wellington County)
• Greater Toronto Area