As Black History Month gets underway, Canada Post has unveiled a new stamp honouring Chloe Cooley, a young Black woman who was known to challenge her enslavement in the late 18th century.
Cooley lived in Queenston, Upper Canada, a region where enslavement was on the rise at the time but attitudes toward the practice were beginning to shift and the abolitionist movement was also growing.
Rumours about a potential ban against slavery began to heat up. Enslavers, afraid they might end up losing what at the time was considered their property, started selling slaves. Among those enslavers was Adam Vrooman, who enslaved Chloe Cooley, according to Canada Post.
In March 14, 1793, Cooley was abducted by Vrooman, who violently bound her, dragged her to the shores of Niagara River. Cooley fought back. Her screams for help and protests for freedom were so loud that they apparently drew the attention of those nearby.
In the end, however, Cooley was taken across the river to New York State and sold.
We don’t know what happened to Cooley afterward, but witnesses shared what they saw with Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, an avowed abolitionist. He was apparently able to use their testimony to introduce new legislation. On July 9, 1793, what became known as the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada was passed.
Years later, in 1833, enslavement was officially abolished throughout the British Empire.
Canada Post says Cooley’s act of resistance in 1973 had a “profound” impact on the history of enslavement in Canada.
Although there are no known photographs of Cooley in existence, Canada Post says the stamp’s illustration was created through extensive consultation with experts in local and regional history, Black history and period fashion.