Black History Cairn
Owen Sound was the northernmost “station” on the Underground Railway, offering freedom to blacks escaping slavery in the U.S. Pay homage at the Black History Cairn in Harrison Park, part of the city’s Freedom Trail.
Through symbolism and interpretive plaques, the cairn traces the route of those abducted from their native Africa and forced into slavery in the West Indies and the United States, escaping into Canada from the 1830s onward. Their courage and hard work contributed to the growth of Owen Sound and Grey County.
Unveiled in August 2004 during the annual Emancipation Festival and Picnic at Harrison Park, the cairn is admired for its cultural, historic and artistic qualities. It was designed by Bonita Johnson de Matteis, a local artist with black roots in the community. Jim Hong Louie, another local artist, crafted the quilt codes at the base of the sculpture.
The windows in the cairn are fashioned after those in the “Little Zion Church,” the first black church in Owen Sound, and the broken shackles speak for themselves. The cairn is accompanied by interpretive plaques that help tell the story of our Black history.
The cairn itself includes stones from places in Canada, the United States and Africa, each with a direct connection to slavery or the abolition movement. It is hoped that more stones will be added over time, making the cairn a living monument.