Catherine Slaney grew into womanhood unaware of her celebrated Black ancestors. An unanticipated meeting was to change her life. Her great-grandfather was Dr. Anderson Abbott, the first Canadian-born Black to graduate from medical school in Toronto in 1861. In Family Secrets Catherine Slaney narrates her journey along the trail of her family tree, back through the era of slavery and the plight of fugitive slaves, the Civil War, the Elgin settlement near Chatham, Ontario, and the Chicago years.
Why did some of her family identify with the Black Community while others did not? What role did “passing” play? Personal anecdotes and excerpts from archival Abbott family papers enliven the historical context of this compelling account of a family dealing with an unknown past. A welcome addition to African-Canadian history, this moving and uplifting story demonstrates that understanding one’s identity requires first the embracing of the past.