The strong and deep roots of ” Black” New Brunswick

 

New Brunswick has a strong and deep, but often overlooked, Black history.

Some Black New Brunswickers, like Measha Brueggergosman and Willie O’Ree, are well-known in the province and outside it.

But there are many others who haven’t received the same level of attention.

Here are their stories:

Louis Sterling Lawrence

Louis Sterling Lawrence

Louis Sterling Lawrence was one of the most impressive boxers the capital city ever produced.

Between 1950 and 1955 Lawrence fought 25 times, knocking out 15 of his opponents and only losing four fights.

Historian Mary Louise McCarthy-Brant said Lawrence took up boxing, along with his brother, when the two boys were in their teens.

Lawrence would go on to win the Canadian Middleweight Championship at Fredericton’s York Arena in 1955, a title he held until 1958.

McCarthy-Brand said Lawrence was a humble man who never forgot where he came from and always put family first.

Lawrence would return to the ring one last time in 1977, at the age of 50, in a charity boxing match in Moncton.

In 1988, Lawrence was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame.

 

Franklin Henderson

Franklin Henderson

Franklin Henderson was born in 1947 in Saint John.

When he was four years old he contracted polio, just a few years before the vaccine for polio would complete testing and become available to the public in 1955. He was partially paralyzed by the virus, which forced him into a wheelchair.

McCarthy-Brandt said this didn’t deter Henderson. “He had just a spirit of accomplishment, that he wanted to be successful, that he wanted to be independent,” said McCarthy-Brandt.

Henderson would go on to become one of the most decorated athletes in New Brunswick sports history, winning over 80 medals in provincial, national and international competitions.

A highlight was a silver medal performance as a member of Team Canada’s wheelchair basketball team at the 1972 Paralympics in Heidelberg, Germany.

He did this at a time when para sport was not as popular as it is today.

“It did not get the recognition or the respect that the able–bodied athletes got,” said McCarthy-Brandt.

Henderson would go on to be inducted into both the Saint John and New Brunswick Sports Halls of Fame, continuing to be an inspiration to many underrepresented New Brunswick athletes.

Eliza Taylor

Eliza Taylor

Eliza Taylor was born into slavery in Richmond, Va., in 1783, and lived in the state until she was four years old.

That’s when she came to New Brunswick, where she would continue to live as a slave in the Gagetown home of James Peters.

After escaping bondage with her husband and settling in the historical Black community of Willow Grove, she would eventually earn the name the “Belle of Loch Lomond.”

“That name came from how Eliza presented herself,” said McCarthy-Brandt. “She was very flamboyant in her dress.”

Dressed in fashionable clothes and accessories, Taylor would become an entrepreneur, selling her wares on a street corner in Saint John and becoming a local celebrity in the process. She was a born businesswoman.

Taylor would live until the age of 105. Unfortunately, her later life was not easy and she died penniless at the Alms House in Saint John in 1888.

While Taylor’s life may not have had a happy ending, McCarthy-Brandt said her trailblazing style went against the stereotype people at the time would’ve had of Black women.

“Many people would expect Black women at that time to be kind of dowdy or not make a scene and, you know, be very reverent and servient with their presentation,” said McCarthy Brandt.