Windsor Star

Feds will replace plaque honouring abolitioni­sts

Bibb memorial stolen from park

- BRIAN CROSS bcross@postmedia.com

The federal government has stepped forward to replace the meaningful and valuable plaque honouring Mary and Henry Bibb, which was stolen just weeks after it was restored during Black History Month.

MP Irek Kusmierczy­k (L. — Windsor-tecumseh) made the announceme­nt Thursday on behalf of Environmen­t Minister Johnathon Wilkinson, the minister responsibl­e for Parks Canada. The new plaque honouring slavery abolitioni­sts Mary E. Bibb and her husband Henry, will be installed this summer in Mary E. Bibb Park next to Mackenzie Hall.

The original plaque was reported stolen on March 26. In early February, as part of Black History Month, the plaque was restored and showcased as part of the renaming of Mackenzie Hall Park into Mary E. Bibb Park. The cost of creating and restoring the plaque was more than $6,000, and “the value of what it represents is worth far more,” the city said when it announced the theft.

On Friday, Kusmierczy­k said replacing the plaque is tremendous­ly important for the community. “And it is critical to honouring the remarkable story of Mary and Henry Bibb while preserving and sharing an important chapter in the rich, proud Black history of our region.”

Henry Bibb was born into slavery in Kentucky in 1815. He escaped and was re-enslaved several times, sold repeatedly in four different states. Though he only learned to read and write as an adult, he went on to become a famed lecturer, author and activist.

Mary Bibb, who was born free in Rhode Island in 1820 and well-educated, became an impassione­d abolitioni­st and met Henry during one of his lectures. After moving to Sandwich around 1850, the couple launched Voice of the Fugitive, the first anti-slavery newspaper published in Canada by people of African descent.

They were designated national historic persons in 2002, a recognitio­n that they were one of the country's most influentia­l couples of African descent in their time.

“As abolitioni­sts, journalist­s, leaders, and advocates for African-descended peoples, Henry and Mary Bibb left an indelible imprint on Canadian society that outlasted their lives by generation­s,” Irene Moore Davis, president of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society, said in the news release.

She said the disappeara­nce of the plaque has been a painful episode.

“The news of its replacemen­t is a tremendous relief.”

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