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Fugitive Slave Chapel in 1926

Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation Project



The Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation Project (FSCPP) is a community-based effort to save the former African Methodist Episcopal Church (1848-1869) that was popularly known at the "Fugitive Slave Chapel." It was the first Black church in London, Ontario, Canada, and it provided refuge for escaped slaves from the United States. The chapel was more than just a church. In addition to being a safe haven for escaped slaves, it was pillar in London's early Black community, and it was a centre for abolitionist activities. As a result of its prominence in London's history, the London Public Library designated it a heritage property, and the City of London labelled it a "priority one" heritage building. Despite its prominence however, the property has not been designated a heritage property by any government, and it is therefore not protected under the Ontario Heritage Act. (For more information about the chapel's history, please visit our homepage.)

To prevent the chapel's demolition and preserve it, a collaborative of individuals and groups from London's Black, heritage/ historic, and SoHo communities initiated the FSCPP. The project focuses on moving the Fugitive Slave Chapel from its present location to a lot next to the Beth Emmanuel Church (the current home of the chapel's congregation). In its new location, the chapel will be used to preserve its history and facilitate research and education about the underground rail road and related subjects.The centre will also include a Black history library and a small showroom or museum for Black historical artefacts. An addition is planned to further facilitate work of the Chapel and house outreach programs started by Beth Emanuel Church to alleviate suffering, and help those enslaved by poverty, addictions, or behaviour problems. The exact plans are still in development and the final product will depend on the generosity of the public.

In 1848 the Church was built to help those fugitives who escaped from the horrors of slavery. Much spiritual and psychological healing was needed. Fugitives arrived in London with very little and, mainly through the aid of previous fugitives, established a new life style for themselves. They all worked hard and worked together to beat the odds of facing a society that was opposed to them. They became some of the most prosperous citizens of the city.

The project requires commitments from individuals and groups willing to serve as volunteers or donate funds. The FSCPP team is also seeking donations from organizations and businesses as well. With the contributions from individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses, the FSCPP's team will be able to return the chapel to its rightful place as a piece of Canada's heritage, a space for charitable efforts, and a resource for the London community. The Fugitive Slave Chapel was instrumental in saving fugitives from a horrific life of slavery. It is now up to us to save the Chapel.

As of November 2013, plans are under-way to start construction of a basement and suitable foundation for the Chapel. More money is needed to get the building moved this fall. Repairs to the old building and the adding of a suitable addition that will allow the old chapel to maximize its benefit to London will cost much more and final figures are not yet known. The final product should be a great boost to the economy of the SoHo district and attract tourism to the area. Besides being an educational and spiritual centre, it will be used to help the economically challenged to get back into the workforce and will therefore relieve the pressure on the welfare system. It will also strive to teach family values and educate parents who will learn parenting skills and therefore reduce the need for correctional facilities in the future. Originally the Chapel was used to help those who were running from slavery in the South. Now those who are enslaved by poverty, addictions of behaviour issues can find help to escape and become productive members of society.

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