It Was Dark There All the Time: Sophia Burthen and the Legacy of Slavery in Canada (2022)
“My parents were slaves in New York State. My master’s sons-in-law … came into the garden where my sister and I were playing among the currant bushes, tied their handkerchiefs over our mouths, carried us to a vessel, put us in the hold, and sailed up the river. I know not how far nor how long — it was dark there all the time.”
Sophia Burthen’s account of her arrival as an enslaved person into what is now Canada sometime in the late 18th century was recorded by Benjamin Drew in 1855. In It Was Dark There All the Time, writer and curator Andrew Hunter builds on the testimony of Drew’s interview to piece together Burthen’s life while reckoning with the legacy of whiteness and colonialism in the recording of her story. In so doing, Hunter demonstrates the role that the slave trade played in pre-Confederation Canada and its continuing impact on contemporary Canadian society.
Andrew Hunter is a freelance curator, artist, writer, and educator. Hunter was previously the Frederik S. Eaton Curator of Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, where he produced major exhibitions and publications including Every Now Then: Reframing Nationhood, In the Ward: Lawren Harris, Toronto & the Idea of North, and Colville.
Born in Hamilton and a graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, Hunter has held curatorial positions across Canada, including at the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. He has taught at the Ontario College of Art and Design University and the University of Waterloo and lectured on curatorial practice across Canada, the United States, England, China, and Croatia. He is a member of the advisory board for the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery at NSCAD.
Published: January 25, 2022, Goose Lane Editions
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