Meet the Cool Abolitionist: Chloe Cooley
Chloe Cooley is a name that you should know because she was instrumental in ending slavery in Canada. Her story is less about her personal life but more about the incident that sparked a change in how Black people were treated in Upper Canada...Here is her story:
Little is known about her early life but Cooley was one of hundreds of slaves that were forcefully relocated to parts of Canada in the early 18th century. In 1793, she was sold to United Empire Loyalist Sergeant Adam Vrooman in which she was forced to work as a domestic servant for the Vrooman family. After some time, Vrooman sold Cooley and violently transported her across the Niagara as Vrooman and two other white men tied her up and forced her onto a boat. Cooley fought and resisted as much as possible and screamed while she was being transported. This incident was witnessed by two white men who reported it to the Lieutenant Governor John Grave Simcoe. Her act of resistance was not isolated as she regularly protested her enslavement in the past by refusing work and leaving the property she was living in without permission. Remember at this time, this would be considered a huge act of defiance so she showed a ton of bravery and resilience.
At the time of the incident, rumors began circling about abolition which made many enslavers like Vrooman anxious. Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe and Attorney John White wanted to put an end to the violent removal of enslaved people outside of the province and used the Chloe Cooley incident to introduce a law to abolish slavery in Upper Canada. Shortly after that, the Attorney General charged Vrooman with disturbing the peace due to the incident with Cooley, to which Vrooman responded that he was within his rights as Cooley was his “property”. Even though the charges were dropped, Cooley’s defiance was instrumental in the legislation that followed.
On 19 June 1793, Attorney General John White proposed an abolition bill to the House of Assembly which received much resistance as many of the members of the Legislative Assembly owned slaves. The result was the “Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada” which prohibited the importation of enslaved persons but did not outlaw the sales off slaves within Canada. Up until this point, slavery was not widely acknowledged in Canada, hence, the Act confirmed it existed and laid the foundation for the gradual abolition of slavery in Canada 25 years later.
For her courageous act of resistance, Chloe Cooley was designated a person of national historic significance by the Government of Canada in 2022. To mark Black History Month 2023, Chloe Cooley was recognized by Canada Post with a commemorative stamp. Shoutouts to Cooley, the abolitionist who fought her way into the history books.
Happy Black History Month.