Chloe Cooley: The Tragic Story of an Enslaved Black Woman in Canada

0 Posted by - September 12, 2021 - BLACK WOMEN, LATEST POSTS

Chloe Cooley was a young enslaved Black woman in Canada during the late 1700s. On March 14, 1793, she was sold against her will, back into the slavery, never to be heard from again.

Cooley belonged to a European named Sergeant Adam Vrooman. He was a loyalist who fled to Canada after the American Revolution. In 1793, Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe put forth a complicated piece of legislation. Simcoe didn’t want to upset Canadians by freeing all the people enslaved, but he did want to work slowly towards abolition. His legislation made it illegal for anyone coming into the country to enslave others and ruled that anyone currently enslaved, born to a mother who was enslaved would be freed at the age of 25.

Vrooman feared he would have to set Chloe free without making a profit for her. For she was one of his most valuable assets. So, he sold her against her across the river to America where slavery was still legal. While the slavery laws were being debated upon in the country, Chloe was beaten, tied up, and put on a small boat to sail across the Niagara River. She screamed but it did no good. However, this was not the first time Cooley fought against her bondage. She regularly protested her enslavement by behaving in “an unruly manner,” stealing property entrusted to her on Sergeant Vrooman’s behalf, refusing to work and engaging in truancy (leaving her master’s property without permission for short periods of time and then returning).

When the boat reached America, she was put up a good fight but nonetheless she was in the hands of people who knew exactly how to break her. She was quickly sold, never to be seen or heard from again.

Peter Martin, a free Black and former soldier in Butler’s Rangers, had witnessed the incident. He and a European man, William Grisely, who brought the incident to the attention of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. Simcoe immediately moved to abolish slavery in the new province. Though many members, including Simcoe, were reportedly shocked at the treatment of Cooley, her abduction took place in the early evening. None of the European men “appalled” with the incident had heeded her screams for help or attempted to stop her or Vrooman.

Vrooman was arrested for his actions of selling Chloe off into slavery but the charges were dropped because a case could not be made against him because slavery was not recognized under English civil law. In other words, Chloe Cooley had no rights that Vrooman was bound to respect, and she could be sold and treated as any other piece of property.

No one knows what happened to Cooley after she arrived in America. But her story is just one of the many that show blacks were just as enslaved in Canada as they were in the United States at one time.



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  • E.J July 23, 2020 - 1:21 pm

    This is not a photograph of Chloe Cooley. No photo exists of her. In fact the original source image is not credited and should be:

    I highly recomend that you remove this image and replace it with something else as it is prepetuating the improper attribution amongst newsaperps, historical institutions and more.