While the record is spotty regarding the arrival of the first African Americans, there's even less in print about the remarkable exploits of Thornton Blackburn and his wife Lucie. Canadian author, historian and archaeologist Karolyn Smardz Frost's I've Got a Home in Glory Road is equal parts scientific study, cultural account and personal odyssey.
The Blackburns escaped from Kentucky to Michigan, then were recaptured and sentenced to be returned to slavery. But the bloody 1833 Blackburn Riots saw Detroit's black community spring into action, rescuing the couple and ushering them safely to Canada, an action that forever altered the political climate between America and Canada, turning the latter nation into a safe harbor for fugitive slaves. Frost's book not only details these events, but follows the Blackburns as they settle in Toronto and eventually create that city's first taxi service. They also become important figures in the abolitionist movement and participants in the Underground Railroad.
Frost credits the work of other archaeologists who uncovered many of the details contained in this amazing story, finally brought to light in her outstanding book. Her own explorations included visits to many of the places the Blackburns lived and extensive genealogical research on births, family ties, relationships, interactions and the couple's contributions to antislavery efforts and black business growth.
Ron Wynn writes for the Nashville City Paper and other publications.