The Hanging of Angèlique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - 7:00pm
Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 1214 Queen St. W.
The Hanging of Angèlique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal

Presented by Pages Books & Magazines, HarperCollins Canada and NOW

On the night of Saturday, April 10, 1734, Montreal burned...Marie-Joseph Angèlique, the slave woman accused of starting the fire, was tried in court and condemned to death. Only under the pressure of "la question extraordinaire" - a hideous torture that shattered the bones in her legs - did she confess to arson. Executed by hanging, Angelique entered Canada's history books as a criminal, but her trial offered the unique chance to tell her life story - one that would otherwise have gone unrecorded and unheard.

In her new book, The Hanging of Angèlique (HarperCollins Canada), Afua Cooper - writer, historian, and poet - brings a little-known chapter in Canadian history brilliantly to life with this narrative of a rebellious Portuguese-born Black woman who refused to accept her bondage. Join us as we launch this important book, and hear Afua Cooper in conversation on stage with poet George Elliot Clarke about the life of Marie-Joseph Angèlique. In this dramatic retelling of Angelique's story, Cooper sheds new light on what might have compelled a young woman to commit such a crime. At the same time, she demolishes the myth of Canada as a haven at the end of the Underground Railroad, revealing a damning centuries-old record of legally and culturally endorsed slavery. Predating any other first-person account of slavery by more than forty years, Angèlique's story is, by all measures, the oldest slave narrative in the New World.

Afua Cooper is an established writer of non-fiction, history, and poetry. She holds a PhD in African-Canadian history with specialties in slavery and abolition, and spent fifteen years researching the intriguing history of Marie-Joseph Angelique. She is the co-author of We're Rooted Here and They Can't Pull Us Up: Essays in African-Canadian Women's History, which won the prestigious Joseph Brant Award for history. One of Canada's most versatile poets, she has published four volumes of poetry, including the acclaimed Memories Have Tongue. Afua Cooper teaches history at the University of Toronto.

George Elliott Clarke is an award-winning poet, playwright and screenwriter. He is the author of six books of poetry, including Whylah Falls, a 2002 CBC Canada Reads finalist, and Execution Poems, winner of the 2001 Governor General's Award for Poetry. Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, near the black Loyalist community of Three Mile Plains. He now lives in Toronto, where he is currently the E. J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto, but also owns land in Nova Scotia. He was recently awarded the Trudeau Fellowship.