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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The 'Old Barracks' Windsor Ontario - Photo Courtesy of Windsor's Community Museum P5227
The 'Old Barracks' Windsor Ontario - Photo Courtesy of Windsor's Community Museum P5227l
Mercer Street Public School circa 1930
Mercer Street Public School circa 1930 Photo Courtesy of Courtesy of Helen E. Caldwell
Dougall Avenue Public School
Dougall Avenue Public School
Photo Courtesy of D.Wilson
Windsor Collegiate
Windsor Collegiate - Photo Courtesy of Windsor Public Library
“Out with the Old”
“Out with the Old” Patterson Collegiate Institute – Courtesy of Windsor Public
“In with the New”
“In with the New” – Courtesy of Windsor Public Library
  If knowledge is power then education is the key to unlocking that power. Slave owners sought to ensure that those held in bondage would not enjoy the benefits of an education. In fact it was illegal for anyone to teach a slave to read or write. Therefore, the opportunity to receive an education upon arrival in Canada was highly prized.

The January 1, 1851 edition of the Voice of the Fugitive details the schools for ‘colored’ people in Canada at that time. In Malden a school was established by Mrs Coywood, with teachers Miss Jane Buckner and Miss Turner. The Reverend Mr. Kirkland ran a school in New Canaan with teacher Miss Lyons. At that time there was no school listed in Windsor. In Sandwich Mrs Mary E. Bibb taught 25 students.

Rev. William King established the Elgin Association in the Buxton area and sold shares to raise funds. He bought land in Raleigh and sold 20 hectare lots for $125 over 10 years. From the outset education was a top priority in the settlement. The Buxton Mission School was the first fully integrated school in North America and it’s reputation for academic achievement was well known. A second school was later established in the northern part of the settlement.

As refugees flooded into the Windsor region a school was established in the ‘Old Barracks’ on the former City Hall Square with Mary Shadd (Carey) as teacher until the barracks was mysteriously consumed by fire. The Common Schools Act of 1850 established separate schools for blacks and Catholics. The first new segregated school later known as the ‘Old Negro School’ was on Assumption between McDougall and Mercer streets. The last teachers at that school were Mrs. Luella Williams and Queenie Fayette. In 1887 Father Dean T Wagner pastor of St. Alphonsus parish in Windsor established a mission to assist fugitives many of whom were orphans. The Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph of Montreal opened the orphanage and school in 1890. In Amherstburg African Canadian students continued to attend King St. School until 1920 at which time the students moved to Amherstburg Public School.

Segregated schools continued to exist in Essex County until 1967. Also several schools were predominantly black due to segregated settlements. These schools were underfunded and often in poor condition. These were also the only opportunities for employment for African Canadian teachers for many decades.

Enrollment of African Canadian students in the 1900’s centred around certain key schools in Windsor. These schools include Mercer Street School, Dougall Ave. School, Windsor Collegiate and Patterson High School. Also many African Canadian teachers began their careers at these institutions.

Educators List
Selected Profiles in Education
100 Years of Building – Schools in Windsor 1840 – 1940
Windsor School Timeline from George Gall Thesis 1963

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.


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