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Scanned from microfilm.
1851: January 1st - 1854: July 29th?
Voice Of The Fugitive: 1851-1852
Voice Of The Fugitive And Canadian Independent: 1853-1854?
Voice Of The Fugitive was one of the first black newspapers in Upper Canada that was aimed at fugitive and escaped slaves from the United States. The only earlier paper was the British American (Toronto), which began in March, 1845, but seems to have only lasted a short while. No copies are known to have survived.
Voice Of The Fugitive was edited and published by Henry Walton Bibb, who was born into slavery in Kentucky in 1815. He escaped to Sandwich, Canada West, in 1850, after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act by the American Congress. In his introduction (1851: January 1st, page 2), he writes: “We shall advocate the immediate and unconditional abolition of chattel slavery everywhere, but especially on American soil. We shall also persuade, as far as it may be practicable every oppressed person of color in the United States to settle in Canada.” As well as news of events in the U.S. relating to slavery and slaves trying to escape, there were also articles on how the refugees were faring in Canada, and about organizations and individuals who were helping them. Other favourite topics were temperance, religion, education, and agriculture.
Voice Of The Fugitive began publication on January 1st, 1851 in Sandwich, Canada West. It was a 4 page newspaper, published bi-weekly on Wednesdays. It cost $1/year in advance and was available across Upper Canada, as well as in many U.S. states, e.g. Michigan, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. In April 1852, the offices were moved to Windsor and in June of that year, James Theodore Holly became the assistant editor. This freed up Henry Bibb to pursue additional political and charitable activities, speaking engagements, and other forms of writing. In January 1853, the newspaper added “Canadian Independent” to its name, increased in size, and became a weekly publication. This appears to be despite the constant financial struggles to keep it afloat. On the night of October 9th, 1853, the offices of the newspaper were burned to the ground. However, by November the Voice was publishing once again. “We observe that it has come forth from the fire, phoenix-like, and vastly improved.” (Globe, 1853: November 4th, page 2). Henry Bibb continued to publish Voice of the Fugitive until his untimely death on August 1st, 1854.
Henry Walton Bibb was an important figure in the anti-slavery movement in Canada. As well as publishing the newspaper and other works, he was the founding director of the Refugee Home Society in 1851. This Society aimed to help meet the needs of former slaves living in Canada. Samuel R. Ward and Mary Ann Shadd Cary, who later published The Provincial Freeman, were very critical of the Society, because it bought land and created separate black settlements in Sandwich and Maidstone. Bibb felt that these settlements would provide better support systems for the new arrivals, and would also help preserve their identity and culture. Shadd and Ringold, on the other hand, believed that African Americans should integrate into the local society. Shadd, in particular felt that they must be independent and was vehemently opposed to their accepting any form of charity. They accused the Society of mismanagement and corruption. In September 1851, Henry Bibb was also elected chairman of the North American Convention of Colored Freemen, and in October 1852, he became president of the Windsor Anti-Slavery Society.