Thornton & Lucie Blackburn escaped Kentucky slavery via Underground Railroad

Some communities did more, but TORONTO played a significant role as an Underground Railroad terminus for escapees from slavery in the American South.  Many came, and many stayed.

Two such refugees from KENTUCKY – Thornton and Lucie Blackburn – made their TORONTO home 54 Eastern Avenue, which today would occupy the southeast corner of Inglenook Community High School’s playground.  They lived there from 1834 until 1890.

The Blackburns left Kentucky on July 3, 1831, and made their way north to Detroit.  Two years later they were captured, and faced certain extradition.  But Detroit’s black community forcefully stepped in (the Blackburn Riots of 1833), and managed to get the couple safely across the border into Canada.  Requests from Michigan’s governor to have them returned to the US were denied.

In 1985, archeologists digging in the Inglenook schoolyard, found clues to TORONTO’s history as a terminus of the Underground Railroad, and artifacts belonging to the Blackburns.

While working as a waiter at Osgoode Hall, Blackburn saw the need for a taxi service.  Using blueprints obtained in Montreal, he had a red and yellow box cab constructed.  Drawn by a single horse the little cab, named The City, was a huge success.  Upon his death, Thornton Blackburn left an estate of $18,000 and six Toronto properties.  He and his wife are buried in the Necropolis, Sumach Street at Amelia.

The Blackburns are honoured in Kentucky by a plaque in downtown LOUISVILLE.  In TORONTO, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated the Blackburns as “persons of national historic significance” – not only for their personal struggle for freedom, but because theirs was emblematic of so many similar, but typically undocumented, cases.  A plaque on the site of their home was erected in 2002.

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One thought on “Thornton & Lucie Blackburn escaped Kentucky slavery via Underground Railroad

  1. Pingback: LIttle Known Black History Fact: Thornton and Lucie Blackburn | Black America Web

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