by Barrington Walker, Professor of History, Queen’s University. Published with the University of Toronto Press, 2010.
In recent years legal historians have been increasingly interested in the social history of the law and in the law’s impact on, among many other social phenomena, race relations. This ground-breaking study investigates the relationship between Ontario’s black community and the criminal courts from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. Using a sample comprised of capital case files and the assize records for Kent and Essex counties, counties with relatively large black populations because they were termini of the underground railroad, Professor Walker investigates the ‘limits of freedom’ for Ontario’s African Canadians. He contrasts formal legal equality with pervasive patterns of social, economic and attitudinal inequality. The records allow him not only to analyse attitudes of the dominant community, but also to provide rare glimpses into black life in the Canadian past