Bryan and Shannon Prince

Photo credit: World Footprints website

by Olivia Barrett, Editorial Associate

Thursday 25 January 2024

Order of Canada for Bryan Earl Prince and Shannon Beth Prince

Bryan and Shannon Prince have dedicated their careers to the preservation and celebration of Black history, not only in their town of North Buxton, but across Canada and the United States. Their work with the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, which focuses on preserving Black history, resulted in being named to the Order of Canada in 2023.

Both sixth generation descendants of freed slaves in the Elgin Settlement and Buxton Mission, Bryan and Shannon Prince have been long-time members of the museum. Shannon has been a curator at the museum since 1999 while Bryan, her husband, has been a board member for several decades. Shannon announced her retirement from the museum in early December 2023.

The Buxton National Historic Site and Museum aims to “collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret historical artifacts” related to the town’s history, according to the museum’s website. North Buxton, a town in the municipality of Chatham-Kent in southwestern Ontario, began as a community by and for freed African-American slaves escaping to Canada.

In addition to their work with the museum, The Princes are members of several organizations in Canada and the US. The Ontario’s Underground Railroad Alliance, the African Canadian Heritage Network, York University’s Harriet Tubman Institute and joint projects with Millersville University in Pennsylvania and the advisory board for Chatham-Kent Tourism are a few of the initiatives the Princes are involved with.

The Princes have also lectured about Black history and its preservation at several universities in Ontario and the US. They are also organizers of an annual conference that brings together scholars from across North America, the Canadian/US Black History and Genealogy Conference.

Their appointment to the Order of Canada highlights their commitment to the documentation, preservation and celebration of Black history, specifically history related to the Underground Railroad in southwestern Ontario. Bryan is also the author of I Came As a Stranger: The Underground Railroad and A Shadow on the Household. It tells the story of slaves escaping to freedom in Canada based around the nearly 40, 000 individuals who made their way to Canada through the Underground Railroad. As a historical storyteller, Shannon also played a key role in the theatre production of Rainbows and Wings, which tells the story of John Brown’s failed attempt to overthrow slavery.