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Mac Simpson’s Word ‘Prophetic’

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In 1964 I returned to Amherstburg – the town of my birth, and was disturbed by the Black awareness that haunted me.  There existed so many negative features in the community such as, restricted housing, people without jobs, children poorly educated, poor living standards – and no one seemed to care.

These were the people whose ancestors came to this country from slavery fired with ambition and determination, they purchased property and rich farmlands, built churches, schools, homes, etc.  these once enslaved people left behind a rich legacy and somehow with the passing of years the fire went out, and so went most of the rich legacy.

How could one restore the pride, in these apathetic people, that their forefathers once knew?  The though came to me ‘Know Thyself’, and the only way, one can know himself is to be told of his rich heritage – from this came the idea of the Black Museum, the best medium of educating people Black and White visually.

In 1966 much information was acquired as to how to pursue the idea of getting a Museum started – contacts were ade with both the Federal and Provincial Members of Parliament and they in turn referred me to various Departments without success.  In the meantime a Minister and seven members raised money to build a hall adjacent to the A.M.E. Church.  Part of this hall was to be used as a Museum.  Gene Whelan, Federal M.P. helped me to break the sod along with other dignitaries.  The Hall was nearly completed in 1970 when we were informed by the Federal Representative, Ted Sexsmith that grants were denied – a Museum cannot be joined to a Church it has to be a separate entity.  Sweat and tears for naught.

In the fall of 1971, five members of the A.M.E. Church purchased the property next to the Church!  On this property stood a log house – this was to be the new site of the Museum.  Contacts were again made to the various government departments.  Directives were given – most important of which was getting endorsements of various organizations – Town Council, Anderdon Council, Malden Council, Chamber of Commerce, the Harrow Heritage Society and the Catholic Diocese – this was accomplished.  A contractor was contacted to draw up a cost estimate of the Museum building – $35,000.

In 1972 Mr. J.R. McHattie, Regional Manager of South Western Ontario Department of Industry and Tourism sent us two cheques – the first on May 4th for $1,050.75 and the second on July 31st for $1,050.60.  we immediately had the house raised and put on a new foundation – the first requirement for restoration from Peter Styrmo, Supervisor of Museums.  We also purchased cedar shingles – the $2, 107.25 was soon exhausted.

In October 1972 the Ontario Heritage Foundation dropped us after we had carried out all their requests – and praise was given for doing a very excellent job.  Seemingly there wasn’t enough Black interest??!!  However this was the greatest disappointment of all, since we had been led to believe that the Museum was a must.   The Ontario Heritage Foundation did pay $300 for an architectural sketch.  Through 1973 and 1974 the Museum had problems trying to survive.

In 1975 my dram still pictures the present log structure restored and furnished as a dwelling of a (former) slave family in the 1840s – with the Museum proper built behind the dwelling.  I would like the Museum to be a very attractive building, well planned and well constructed – with by all means a large mural depicting the history of the Black Race – a great civilization in Africa – slavery – freedom – the introduction of outstanding Blacks produced by slavery and also by freedom.  This Museum properly planned could be the Museum of all Museums and so it shall be.  The more I think of it the more I envision greater things being accomplished by the present Board of Directors.  We shall stand tall and proud not only because of our Heritage by because we are a race surrounded by mystery – who knows – the Black man may one day be proved to be the World’s First Man.  Think about it?

 

Melvin (Mac) Simpson

 

 

 

David Van DykeMac Simpson’s Word ‘Prophetic’

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