The Museum consists of two historical buildings, both from the time of the Underground Railroad: the Taylor Log Cabin, which was one the home of a formerly enslaved people, and Nazrey A.M.E. Church, National Historic Site of Canada. The site also contains a museum structure which houses the permanent exhibit and the Cultural Centre (used for the purpose of temporary exhibits, meetings, and rentals). Core programming includes both self-guided and guided tours of these buildings, educational programming for schools and other groups, and the showcasing of artifacts and exhibits which tell the story of African Canadians. The Museum also presents cultural events including Ribs & Ragtime, Emancipation Dinner & Dance and Golf Classic, and Christmas at the Black Museum. These events use music, a powerful educator, to showcase Black history and culture.
Nazrey African Methodist Episcopal Church, National Historic Site of Canada
Built in 1848, the Nazrey African Methodist Episcopal Church was a terminus of the Underground Railroad, built by hand to serve Amherstburg’s growing Black community. Many people fleeing slavery and oppressed Blacks first felt true freedom within her walls.
It is named after Bishop Nazery, who led many congregations, including this one, from the American-based AME Church Conference into the new Canadian-based British Methodist Episcopal Church. The denomination flourished until the late 19th century when many dwindling congregations consolidated and reunited with the AME Church.
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.
This evocative stone chapel speaks to the faith of the Underground Railroad refugees and to their commitment to build lives as free Canadians. The Nazrey A.M.E. Church is now a treasured National Historic site.
The Taylor Log Cabin
The Taylor Log Cabin is an example of the early log construction that existed in the Amherstburg area prior to 1865. The cabin is thought to have been one of two buildings previously located on Fort Malden property.
When the building was first moved here it did not have a livable second storey, only a small loft. Nasa McCurdy, who was instrumental in building the Nazrey A.M.E. Church in 1848, raised the roof of the home to make a livable second floor. Mr. George Taylor, who had escaped slavery in Kentucky and served in the Union Army, lived in the cabin with 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 main building contains rotating traveling exhibits and the permanent exhibit which begins with African culture before the slave trade and continues through the rigors of the ocean passage to the New World, the horrors of slavery in a foreign land; the escapes to Canada West via the Underground Railroad; the building of a new life in freedom; and highlights Canadian Black achievements and contributions. Many of the artifacts were donated by descendants of formerly enslaved people.