Honouring Black History Month with New Corktown Laneways

On February 1, I was joined by the Corktown community to unveil two new laneway namings and commemorate the first day of Black History Month 2024 - two seemingly unrelated events that were, in this case, meaningfully intertwined. 

The north-south laneway running parallel to Bright Street and St. Paul Street was named to honour abolitionist and performer Henry Box Brown. Brown was an enslaved man who found freedom by shipping himself to Philadelphia in a wooden box, earning himself the “Box” in Henry Box Brown. After his liberation he turned his story into a stage show and panorama that he performed in the Northeastern United States and England. Brown and his family eventually settled here in Toronto, where he died on June 15, 1897. 

 

Intersecting Henry Box Brown Lane at its north end is the newly named North Star Way. This laneway commemorates the journeys of the estimated 100,000 people who escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad. As slaves travelled north under the cover of night, they used the North Star to guide their way. 

 

I am proud to unveil these laneways as a lasting reminder of our history and to inspire a more just and equitable future. Black History Month is not just about looking back; it’s also about looking forward and recognizing the challenges that lie ahead. 

I would like to acknowledge Adam Wynne, Coralina Lemos and Pat (Pancheta) Barnett - three community members and heritage champions without whom this project would not have been possible.

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