Black History in Ontario: The Bradley Museum  
Curated by the Mississauga Heritage Foundation, The Bradley Museum presents a fully guided tour exploring the history of Black Experience in Upper Canada.

The Bradley Museum, founded by the Mississauga Heritage Foundation, consists of multiple buildings dating back to the 1820s. The museum uses these historical buildings to depict various aspects of Canadian history, specifically those that pertain to Ontario. 

The Bradley House is a saltbox-style farmhouse nestled in the heart of Mississauga. Originally built in 1830 as a family home, Lewis and Elizabeth Bradley lived here with their seven children. Following their deaths, the house had several owners until early 1961, when it was sold to the Mississauga Heritage Foundation. In 1967, the foundation opened the house to the general public. 

Nearby, The Anchorage is a regency-style cottage built in the 1820s that moved from Southdown and Lakeshore Road to its current location. The origin of its name is speculated to be from the various inhabitants that lived there. This ranges from a retired British Navy Commander naming his retirement home to anchor merchants “anchoring” on a sandbar present on the property. Additional buildings that are part of the museum include log cabins and various outbuildings, which were incorporated throughout the 19th century. 

Amidst the historical architecture, this museum also includes various themed tours on the property. These include the “Bradley Family Settler Experience,” “Black History in Peel,” and “Learning about Indigenous Peoples and Truth and Reconciliation.” The Black History in Peel guided tour launched just in time for Black History Month. A fully guided tour using artifacts, images, and interactive activities, it explores the Black experience in Upper Canada from the 19th century, enslavement, and the Underground Railroad. 

The tour begins with the “modern kitchen.” Here, you’ll find an old iron metal stove, complete with iron cookware, bake pans, and large basins. From the ceiling hangs beautiful herbs tied together with twine from the outdoor kitchen garden. Most food was grown by the settlers themselves. Right by the door hangs a gun and beneath it, a table filled with all sorts of daily tools. One of them includes a candle mold. 

Adjacent to the modern kitchen is the old kitchen. Here, no formal stove is present, but rather, a large hearth. You see all sorts of dishware and rocking chairs and can learn about the historical role of Black people in the production of sugar; a large commodity sold during the slave trade. You see pictures of slaves and the system used to convert cane sugar into regular sugar and brown sugar. You can also hear an interview, where a Black man describes the moment at which he realized he was free here in Canada. 

Through a narrow doorway, a small bedroom is situated by the old kitchen. Mostly used by pregnant women and the elderly due to the heat from the hearth, here you find a single bed frame and a small basin. In this area, you learn of the origin of many words that are rooted in racism. These includes “master bedroom,” “grandfathered,” and the use of a racist song by vaudeville actor Harry C. Browne to create the famed ice cream truck melody. Going back to the modern kitchen is a staircase tucked away that leads to the “master” bedroom and children’s rooms. 

Here, an activity is set up to learn about key terms used to help slaves run to freedom in the Underground Railroad. Terms such as station, station master, and bottleneck gourd are used by both the slaves and the people in between who were helping these people to freedom. 

Overall, this experience was profound. It is often assumed that we have learned all that we need about the history of Canada, in all its prejudice. Yet, the experiences of Black survivors of slavery need to be learned of and shared with all, as these experiences range from a variety of injustices. The Bradley Museum presents these experiences in conjunction with the daily life of early settlers, showcasing the daily struggles slaves endured as well as their fight for freedom. The Museums of Mississauga opens these tours out to the public for free, and you can sign up for a tour here. Donations can also be made on-site, contributing to similar educational experiences.


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