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Toronto Star: Opinion - Save the Salem Chapel
Vicki Mochama | November 9, 2017

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Preserving Salem Chapel, promoting a rarely told past: Mochama

https://www.gofundme.com/preserving-salem-chapel/donate

From Issue No. 263 | November 20, 2017

Uncovering the truth of what this country is and has been requires preserving the places that evoke our history. We cannot learn what we allow to be forgotten.

Supporters of the historic Salem Chapel in St. Catharines have started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise $100,000 for repairs.
Supporters of the historic Salem Chapel in St. Catharines have started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise $100,000 for repairs.  (GO FUND ME)  
 
Salem Chapel in St. Catharines as seen in 1925.
Salem Chapel in St. Catharines as seen in 1925.  (PUBLIC DOMAIN)  
 
Supporters of the historic Salem Chapel in St. Catharines have started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise $100,000 for repairs.  (GO FUND ME)  
 

At the corner of Geneva and North Sts. in St. Catharines, Salem Chapel stands on the land it has occupied since 1855, marking a home for formerly enslaved Africans fleeing the United States.

Yet a long history is no guarantee of a continued future. The congregation at Salem Chapel is raising money through GoFundMe to pay for the building’s upkeep. A butter cream coloured building, whose windows are trimmed in burgundy and white, it’s clear someone loves this place. A lush and vibrant garden lines the outer wall while a memorial garden, a veritable oasis, invites you to sit a spell.

Up the red stone path, you will find a bust commemorating the church’s most famous congregant and her Canadian life. At the height of her work freeing slaves, Harriet Tubman lived in St. Catharines and worshipped at Salem Chapel.

“What is remarkable is the fact that her life is a Canadian as well as an American story, and although she is barely mentioned in most Canadian history texts, she deserves a place of prominence in the mainstream of Canadian history,” wrote Graham Reynolds in Viola Desmond’s Canada.

For so long, Black people’s history in Canada has been under taught. At a party in Toronto, a young white woman told me that until she went to university, she hadn’t known Canada once had slavery.

Other histories too are untold. Despite being the “Promised Land” for formerly enslaved people, southern Ontario was not a paradise for Black people. 

A series of newspaper pieces posted at the St. Catharines City Museum tell the story of Aaron Young, a barber who wanted his wife to be able to go to the local bathhouse. Aaron and his wife were both denied entry. Although the bathhouse employed Black people, they were not allowed to use its facilities. Undaunted, he wrote an ad and had it published in the St. Catharine’s Journal.

The editorial board of the paper responded: “So long as the colored man behaves himself in this country he will be respected, but when he presumes to dine at a public house, or to wash in the same bath as a white man, he is going too far, and public opinion will frown him down.”

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