Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society

177 King Street East, Chatham, Ontario N7M 3N1 [map]
Telephone: 519-352-3565


From Highway 401 east, take Exit 90 to Highway 40 north. Turn left onto Park Avenue. Turn right onto Park Street. Turn Right onto Duke Street. Turn left onto King Street and the WISH Centre is on the right.

From Highway 401 west, take Exit 81 to Bloomfield Road north. Turn right onto Richmond Street. Turn left onto William Street. Turn right onto King Street and the WISH Centre is on the left. Please visit the website for more detailed directions.


The Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society is surrounded by historic landmarks, parks and heritage plaques. With a focus on preserving the area's rich Black history, we function as both a tourist attraction and research facility.

The self-guided exhibit contains artifacts and interactive audio/visual presentations documenting Chatham's important role in Black history as it progressed from a haven for runaway slaves to become home to a Black community that thrived in business, education, sport, medicine and literary and cultural arts. "Chatham was not a mecca only. In a broader and truer sense, it was the colored man's Paris." (Rev. R.R. Disney after visiting in 1857)

The annual John Brown Festival in May recognizes the recruitment of Chatham's affluent Black community for a famous raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. The secret meetings in Chatham and the raid are believed to have sparked the American Civil War.

Research resources include genealogical, census and military records, photographs, newspaper articles and land registries. Tours by appointment.