Secular, Scarred and Sacred

Education and Religion Among the Black Community in Nineteenth-Century Canada

by Jerome Teelucksingh (Author)
©2019 Monographs XVIII, 138 Pages


Secular, Scarred and Sacred: Education and Religion Among the Black Community in Nineteenth-Century Canada focuses on the paternal yet exclusionary role of Protestant Whites and their churches among refugee slaves and free Blacks in nineteenth-century Upper Canada—many of whom had migrated to Canada to escape the dreaded system of slavery in the United States. This book contends that White Protestant churches provided organizational, social and theological models among Black communities in Canada. Author Jerome Teelucksingh further explores how Black migrants seized the educational opportunities offered by churches and schools to both advance academically and pursue an ideal of virtuous citizenship that equipped them for new social challenges.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Tables
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Slavery and Migration to Canada
  • Chapter 2: Churches in the United States
  • Chapter 3: The Church’s Role in Education
  • Chapter 4: Emergence of Black Leadership
  • Chapter 5: Unique Theology and Management
  • Chapter 6: Assimilation and Marginalization
  • Conclusion
  • Appendices

← viii | ix →


Table 3.1: Sabbath School Report

Table 5.1: Population of Urban Areas in Ontario

Table 6.1: Religious Affiliation of Blacks in Buxton and Raleigh Township

Table 6.2: Membership of the Various Churches That Joined the Amherstburg Association

Table 6.3: Fourteenth Annual Conference of the BME Church Indicating Contingent Expenses and Allowances of the Preachers

Table 6.4: Religious Affiliation of Blacks in Chatham, 1851, 1861 and 1871

Table A.1: Muster Book of Free-Black Settlement of Birchtown, Port Rosaway. Muster 3 and 4 July 1784

Table A.2: Return for Negroes and Their Families Mustered in Annapolis County 28 May and 30 June 1784

Table A.3: Baptism Register of Christ Church, Nova Scotia

Table A.4: Tables Indicating the Black Population During 1860–1861 ← ix | x →

Table A.5: Religion of Buxton’s Population 1849–1859

Table A.6: Table Illustrating the Number of Blacks in Upper Canadian Settlements

Table A.7: Table Illustrating the British Methodist Episcopal Church’s Mission Stations Among Blacks and the Need for Permanent Black Leaders to Minister to the Congregations

Table A.8: Table Indicating Sessions of Annual and General Conferences of the British Methodist Episcopal Church

← x | xi →


The history of Blacks departing the United States and settling in Canada is strikingly similar to that of other immigrants in Canada. By the mid-nineteenth century Canada comprised numerous European immigrants. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Scottish, Hungarians, Italians and Jews initially endured hostile treatment akin to the Blacks’ experiences. These new settlers faced racial, ethnic and religious discrimination and, like the Blacks, were able to overcome these social, religious and cultural obstacles. And, in terms of push factors, the European minorities left their homeland to escape from poverty, peasantry, religious or political persecutions; whilst the Blacks wanted to escape the curse of slavery.

Despite the emphasis on fugitive Blacks, it should be acknowledged that not all Blacks were fugitives. There were those whose guaranteed freedom in Canada did not merit the acceptance of religion or membership in a denomination. However, the work of the Church extended to all Blacks without taking into account their religious conviction. The journey to Canada not only meant physical freedom but a liberating experience incorporating the psychological, spiritual and emotional being. The trauma of slavery was still fresh in the minds of many Blacks and many of the answers to their actions and responses can be traced to a violent past and being uprooted from their ← xi | xii → native Africa. Protestantism provided a much needed support for these illegal immigrants seeking spiritual salvation and physical protection.

The primary sources for this research included the McCurdy, Strachan and Abbott Papers at the Ontario Archives in Toronto, the Fred Landon Collection and the Canadian Black Studies Project at the University of Western Ontario. These diverse sources provided an invaluable insight into the monumental and diverse contributions of the Protestant churches to the Black community. Useful research centers included the Ontario Black History Society, Shelburne County Genealogical Society, Dalhousie University, Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, and the Black Loyalist Heritage Society.

The denominational resources included the United Church Archives at Victoria College, which provided information on the Wesleyan Methodists, and British Methodist Episcopal Churches at the Presbyterian Church Archives in Toronto. Additionally, the extensive Baptist collection at the Divinity College at McMaster University proved to be a rich reserve of data on the churches belonging to the Amherstburg Association. Such periodicals as the Amherstburg Courier, Christian Guardian, Voice of the Fugitive, Provincial Freeman and Ecclesiastical and Missionary Record were invaluable storehouses of missionary work in North America.

The main areas of this study dwell on the church’s role in education, development of Black leadership, assimilation, theology and independence of Black churches. These themes will be used in reconstructing and investigating the socio-religious encounter between Blacks, from the United States, and Protestants who belonged mainly to the White churches in Canada. The quotes from Bible verses, at the beginning of most chapters, are from the New International Version.

In Chapter 1 there is a focus on the early era of slavery in Canada and the impact of events such as the War of 1812 and Rebellion of 1837 on the Black population. This chapter also reveals the importance of the Underground Railroad in rescuing free Blacks and the enslaved in the United States. Chapter 2 emphasizes the schisms that emerged among Protestant churches in the United States due to the divisive moral and theological debates over slavery. There is a focus in Chapter 3 on the educational nature and extent of the relationship of the Protestant church and Blacks. The relationship between Blacks and churches revealed the pre-occupation with education which became the guiding concept in the lives of Blacks. In this chapter, one of the sub-themes is the presence and problems of Blacks in the public education ← xii | xiii → system contrasts with the unbiased atmosphere of learning at the Sabbath schools. And as a result of the provision of educational services, the Protestant church gained an image as a protector of the Blacks and thereby contributed significantly to their socialization. In providing education for Blacks, the churches satisfied the educational needs of Blacks and thus provided the basis for a socio-religious relationship with Protestantism.

In Chapter 4 there is an examination of the development of Black leadership which involved the transferring of responsibilities and roles from Whites to Blacks. This theme incorporates the nature and origins of Black leadership and the smooth transition from White to Black leadership. Furthermore, the Black leaders extended their work to vigorous evangelistic programs which produced several mission stations which became new bases of religious influence.

Chapter 5 explores the extent of the organizational ability and theology of the Black Church. A perusal of church records revealed that comprehensive attempts were made to build a financially and socially stable Black church in Canada. The experiences of the enslaved and free Blacks in the United States had a strong influence on their activities among the churches. Additionally, evidence of the former association with White churches is seen in the similar structure and governance of the Black churches.


XVIII, 138
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (July)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XVIII, 138 pp., 14 tables

Biographical notes

Jerome Teelucksingh (Author)

Jerome Teelucksingh received his PhD in history from The University of the West Indies, where he has taught as a lecturer in the Department of History since 2006. His previous publications include Civil Rights in America and the Caribbean, 1950s–2010s (2017) and Ideology, Politics, and Radicalism of the Afro-Caribbean (2016).


Title: Secular, Scarred and Sacred
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158 pages