It is the stuff of legends - folk tales passed down for generation to generation. "The Greatest Freedom Show on Earth," a 90 minute documentary by filmmaker Bob Huggins (pictured, right speaking to students
), began with a conversation between Huggins and his friend, Preston Chase, one night in an Ottawa bar.
"It was a fascinating story, " Huggins said after screening the film in front of more than 600 students and faculty from the GECDSB at the historic Capital Theatre. It traces the roots of the area's black communities from the underground railroad to freedom in southwestern Ontario.
The story of Walter Perry, a Windsor resident who dreamed of creating a spectacle to commemorate their freedom occupies a large portion of the film. Huggins used never-before-seen images, pictures and audio discovered in a Windsor basement to relate the tale of the Emancipation Celebration, a festival which ran from 1936-68.
The documentary, started in 2011, was at times very trying for Huggins. A white person doing an historical documentary on the black celebrations and history created its own difficulties.
The film presentation to the GECDSB students was part of the celebrations of Black History Month.
John Campbell PS student, Andre Ducharme, 13, came away feeling sad for the slaves who escaped to Ontario. The Emancipation celebrations were, according to Ducharme, " a way to get cultures together and create friendships."
Another Campbell student, 12-year-old Phoenix Lambier said, " We need to treat people like we want to be treated," adding that there is no place for the racism he sees.
The film recognizes many Windsor area residents whose families followed the freedom trail north.
"Black history is everyone's history, and knowledge is the key to understanding," said Rachel Olivero, Diversity Officer for the GECDSB.
Huggins answered several questions from the diverse crowd of students as they were wrapping up the screening.
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or the North American Black Historical Museum in Amherstburg