by Sarah Onyango
On February 2, 2017, at the International Pavillion, on Sussex Drive, the U.S. embassy in Ottawa held a special reception and panel discussion highlighting the exhibition “North Is Freedom,” which features Canadian photographer Yuri Dojc’s portraits of the descendants of 19th century freedom-seekers who escaped slavery in the United States by fleeing to Canada.
According to Dojc, some 30,000 men, women and children are believed to have fled north to freedom, settling from the Canadian Maritimes as far west as the Manitoba border. Most came to what is now Ontario, to places such as Windsor, Chatham, Buxton, the Niagara Peninsula, Owen Sound, and larger cities like Hamilton and Toronto. One of the descendants whose photo is among the 24 portraits, Darryl Hogan, joined Dojc for the panel discussion.
The title of the show comes from the poem “North Is Freedom,” by George Elliott Clarke, the current and first Black Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada. This photographic essay is one of several exhibits presented by the U.S. embassy, from February 1 to February 19, 2017, to mark the 150th anniversary of confederation.