February 20, 2012
Canadian Black History
Season of Rage: Hugh Burnett and the Struggle for Civil Rights
by John Cooper
The small Ontario town of Dresden was one of the end points of the Underground Railroad. The escaped slaves who settled there built many of the area's schools and churches. Yet racial discrimination persisted. Dresden's barbershops, beauty parlor, pool halls, and two of its restaurants, refused to serve black customers.
Hugh Burnett, a successful furniture maker, decided to take a stand. He and others formed the National Unity Association to forge better race and group relations. With the backing of the Joint Labour Committee for Human Rights, they worked diligently to enforce the new laws of the Ontario government, which made discrimination based on race or religion a statutory offence.
With writing that simmers with a quiet, palpable anger, author John Cooper sheds light on an important moment in Canadian history.