Meet the Team

Michele Johnson photoPrincipal Investigator: Michele A. Johnson is Director of the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples, and a fellow at the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean, both at York University. She is currently Associate Professor in the Department of History at York where she teaches a variety of courses which focus on “Blacks in the Americas.” Michele’s research interests have focused on the cultural history of Jamaica, gender relations, race/racialization and labour, domestic slavery and service in Jamaica/the Caribbean and Canada, as well as migration and Diasporas.


karolyn-smardz-frostSenior Research Fellow: Karolyn Smardz Frost is the Harrison McCain Visiting Professor at Acadia University.  She was the Bicentennial Visiting Professor for Canadian Studies (2012-2013) and previously served as Executive Director of the Ontario Historical Society, Vice-Chair of the Toronto Historical Board, and the Canadian representative to the World Archaeological Congress.  Her biography of fugitive slaves Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad, won the 2007 Governor-General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction. She is the author of numerous articles on the UGRR, and co-author of The Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Toronto! (2002) and co-editor of Ontario’s African-Canadian Heritage (2009)She awaits the 2017 publication of Steal Away Home, the story of a freedom-seeker, her former mistress and their multi-year correspondence.  With colleague Dr. Veta Smith Tucker, Karolyn has just launched the co-edited A Fluid Frontier: Slavery, Freedom and the Underground Railroad on the Detroit River Borderland (2016).



Project Manager: Naomi Norquay is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education, York University where she teaches in the pre-service and graduate programs. Her current research concerns the historic Black pioneer settlement along the Old Durham Road in Grey County. She is co-editor of Northern Terminus: The Journal of African Canadian History. She also plays the banjo.


Senior Researchers:

Hilary DawsonHilary J. Dawson is a historical researcher who has worked in museums in the UK and Canada, including Wilberforce House, Hull, UK. Her research into nineteenth century Etobicoke Township (now part of Toronto, Ontario) uncovered a previously unknown Black presence. In 2002, the Etobicoke Historical Society presented her with the Jean Hibbert Award for her contribution to Etobicoke’s history. She is a popular speaker on Ontario African Canadian history.



Adrienne Shadd is a historian, curator and author. She has conducted research for films including the CBC’s acclaimed Freedom’s Land, and for exhibits such as the new interpretive exhibit at the Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site in Dresden, and Black Mecca: The Story of Chatham’s Black Community in Chatham, Ontario. She is the author, coauthor and editor of several publications, including the first book on Toronto Black history, The Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Toronto! (2002) with Afua Cooper and Karolyn Smardz Frost, and The Journey from Tollgate to Parkway: African Canadians in Hamilton (2010).


Research Team:

NikolaNikola Apostolov-Dimitrijevic is currently a masters student at the Department of Political Science at York University. He has a background in 20th-century social and political history. He has been working as a Research Assistant at the Harriet Tubman Institute since 2011. In his spare time, Nikola enjoys cooking and exploring Toronto’s restaurant scene.



Betty AnnBetty Ann Henry completed her second Honours bachelor degree at York University in Sociology and Work & Labour Studies, and a Certificate in Anti-Racist Research and Practice (CARRP).  Her first bachelor degree was in English and Communications. She will be pursing her masters in Sociology starting September 2013.


Alanna-profileAlanna McKnight holds bachelor degrees in Costume Studies at Dalhousie University and Canadian History at York University, and recently completed a masters in History at York University, with the thesis “Tentering Trade: Women in Toronto’s Needle-Trades, 1834-1861”.  She is currently enrolled in George Brown College’s Archives and Records Management Certificate, and will be starting a PhD in Communications and Culture at Ryerson in September. 


guylaineGuylaine Pétrin, BA MLS, is a bilingual librarian at Glendon College at York University. She is also a genealogist and historical researcher, specializing in Upper Canada.  Her current research concerns the Black community of Toronto before 1850. She has presented papers on the wives of the Coloured Corps in the past, and her article about the life of Elizabeth Sanders was published in the Spring 2013edition of Ontario History.




Marina Ran is an Honours Double Major graduate of Political Science and International Development Studies from York University. Taking an unconventional route to her education, Marina paused her degree for 3 years to work full-time with the world’s largest student-run non-profit organization, AIESEC, which operates in the areas of youth leadership development and cross-cultural understanding. Through this experience, Marina led the Canadian branch of the organization and later joined the global executive board based in The Netherlands before returning to York to complete her studies.


dorothy williamsDorothy W. Williams has a doctorate in Library Science but is known as a community historian and archivist. Born in Montreal, Dorothy has authored three books and contributed to other scholarly and academic publications with a focus on Montreal’s Blacks. Her unique historical knowledge is in demand in many diverse fields. She began working in Black community organizations decades ago and is Executive Director at the Black Community Resource Centre.

KatieKatie Wloka
completed her bachelors degree from Wilfrid Laurier University with a focus on English and History, and continued on to earn a bachelor of Education from York University. After four years of teaching abroad in Asia, Africa, and Europe, Katie returned to her roots in Ontario and has just completed her masters of Education through York University, with an emphasis on Urban Environments and Environmental/Sustainability Education. 


Curriculum Designer:

Natasha HenryNatasha Henry is an educator, historian, and curriculum consultant specializing in the development of learning materials that focus on the African Diasporic experience. She is the author of Talking About Freedom: Celebrating Freedom in Canada (2012) and Emancipation Day: Celebrating Freedom in Canada (2010). Natasha was also the education specialist for Breaking the Chains: Presenting a New Narrative of Canada’s Role in the Underground Railroad.


Digital Media Artists, Future Cinema Lab at York University

Caitlin-FisherPrincipal: Caitlin Fisher holds a Canada Research Chair in Digital Culture in the Department of Film at York University. A co-founder of York’s Future Cinema Lab, her research investigates the future of narrative through explorations of interactive storytelling and interactive cinema in Augmented Reality environments. Caitlin completed York’s first hypertextual dissertation in 2000 and her hypermedia novella, ‘These Waves of Girls’, won the Electronic Literature Organization’s 2001 Award for Fiction. Her augmented reality poem, Andromeda, was awarded the 2008 International Vinaros Prize for Electronic Literature.


Andrew-RothAndrew Roth is the Technology Manager at the Future Cinema Lab at York University. As an artist and researcher, he has collaborated in interactive installations, augmented reality experiences, and the creation of tools for digital media artists. He has presented work at ISEA 2008 (co-presented with G. A. Rhodes) and ISMAR 2011. Formerly an instructor in the Interactive Arts and Sciences department at Brock University, his current research involves the use of augmented reality as a participatory learning tool and the use of graphical programming languages as an interface to hybrid tracking technologies.


Laura ZenoProject Manager: Laura Portia Zeno is a York University graduate with a bachelor in Psychology and is currently a Research Assistant at the York U Augmented Reality Lab. She is a self-taught digital media designer specializing in graphic design, asset manipulation, fractal art, and AR. She is also a classically trained opera singer and Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) artist.



Tristan PrescottTristan Prescott is a Research Assistant at the York U Augmented Reality Lab. He attended Seneca College for Digital Media Arts. Tristan specializes in Audio/Video production, Graphic Design, 3D, and of course AR. He is also a SOCAN singer/songwriter and enjoys anime. 



French Translation

The Harriet Tubman Institute is grateful to have worked with Patricia Dumas, who translated portions of this project into French. Sadly, Patricia passed away before the competition of the project. It is thanks to the invaluable support of her son, Louis Paré, who worked together with Patricia, that we are able to present this completed project.


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