The Amherstburg Freedom Museum is located in Amherstburg, Ontario, a chief entry point into Canada for those escaping slavery in the U.S. The Museum consists of two historic buildings and a main exhibition building that preserves the rich Black heritage and history of the region.
Amherstburg resident Melvin “Mac” Simpson believed that social, economic and educational problems could be addressed more effectively by people with a greater self awareness and pride in their own history. He wanted to do something tangible to increase Black awareness, to help future generations claim and develop enhanced dignity, strength and purpose of being. He envisioned a means to educate the entire community.
In 1966, the pastor and members of the Nazrey A.M.E Church, which included Mr. Simpson, raised money to build a museum hall attached to the church. The Museum became incorporated in 1975. Funding from municipal, provincial and federal governments, individuals and local businesses allowed the construction of the current building, which opened on September 20, 1981. Mac Simpson died January 1982, having added to the legacy of his people.
Built in 1848, the Nazrey African Methodist Episcopal Church was a terminus of the Underground Railroad. Many people fleeing slavery and oppressed Blacks first felt true freedom within her walls. After crossing the Detroit River to Amherstburg, which is one of the narrowest Detroit River points of entry, these individuals became people in a nation, where they were recognized and respected, some perhaps for the first time, as human beings. Upon arrival in Amherstburg they found that Nazrey played a significant role in their new lives, offing itself as an interim resting place until permanent housing could be found. The church also served as a school to educate those who had been denied that privilege, and social centre where numerous everyday skills would be taught.
The Church was given a new life in 1999, with major renovations to the interior, exterior and roof, and was designated the first Black National Historic Site in Canada. It has been preserved as part of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and is a testament to the Underground Railroad and a symbol of freedom.
The Taylor Log Cabin was the residence of George Taylor and his family around 1880. The Taylor Log Cabin and its furnishings represent the type of housing available to some residents in Amherstburg during this time period. The home was sold to Melvin Simpson in the 1970s to use as a feature for the Museum. The Museum has continued to develop throughout the years, celebrating Black history as it continues to preserve and promote its elements.