How to celebrate Emancipation Day 2021 in Ontario

DRESDEN –This Emancipation Day, August 1, you can experience a week of digital activities from the Ontario Heritage Trust that celebrate and explore Ontario’s Black communities and Black heritage through engaging and educational video programming produced by Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site. Programming will launch Monday, July 26 and run throughout the week leading up to Emancipation Day on August 1.

What Emancipation represents

Emancipation Day is a celebration of freedom. It commemorates the Slavery Abolition Act, which became law on August 1, 1834. This act freed more than 800,000 people of African descent throughout the British Empire. Since then, Emancipation Day has been celebrated on or near August 1 each year. It is an important expression of identity for Black communities and a reminder of the continuing struggle faced by people of African descent toward a more inclusive, diverse society.

The day is especially popular in areas where refugees from American slavery settled – most notably Windsor, Toronto, Hamilton, Owen Sound as well as present-day Dresden, where Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site is located.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site’s Emancipation Day virtual program

Since 2005, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site has celebrated Emancipation Day by bringing together historians, storytellers, artists and musicians for day-long activities that creatively explore Ontario’s Black heritage. This year, Emancipation Day at Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site will be virtual.

Beginning July 26 and leading up to August 1, the Trust will release daily videos on its YouTube channel, social media and website. Videos will range from interviews with authors, filmmakers and an underwater archaeologist to cooking demonstrations and musical performances. All will explore and celebrate different aspects of Ontario’s Black history and culture and the contributions Black Ontarians have made and continue to make in all parts of society.

This year, Ontarians are also invited to join a free, live virtual tour of Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site on Monday, July 26 and Friday, July 30. Pre-registration is required. Book your free ticket on Eventbrite.

For more information about this year’s program ...

Quick facts:

  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site is owned and operated by the Ontario Heritage Trust. This two-hectare (five-acre) complex celebrates the life and work of Reverend Josiah Henson, a Person of National Historic Significance, and tells the stories of Ontario’s early Black settlements.
  • Rev. Josiah Henson was a celebrated abolitionist and underground railroad conductor. He escaped slavery in the U.S., fleeing to Upper Canada with his family in 1830, where he helped to establish the Dawn Settlement at what is now Dresden. His autobiography inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe to write the anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site will re-open for public tours starting July 30. Pre-registration is required. Learn more at


Patricia Njovu, Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist, Ontario Heritage Trust., 437-248-1439

About the Ontario Heritage Trust

The Ontario Heritage Trust (the Trust) is an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. It conserves, interprets and shares Ontario’s heritage. The Trust conserves provincially significant cultural and natural, tangible and intangible heritage, interprets Ontario’s history, celebrate its diversity and educates Ontarians of its importance in our society. The Trust envisions an Ontario where we conserve, value and share the places and landscapes, histories, traditions and stories that embody our heritage, now and for future generations.