EDMONTON (CityNews) – An important chapter of Canadian history is back in the spotlight thanks to Canada Post.
The community of Amber Valley – located 170 kilometres north of Edmonton – was settled by African Americans who escaped violence and segregation in the United States in 1910.
Its one of two Canadian communities – along with Willow Grove, N.B. – to be commemorated on a stamp for Black History Month.
“It wasn’t that well known outside Alberta, and even in Alberta,” said Jim Phillips at Canada Post. “How they thrived, how they each formed communities, and their children and grandchildren went on to be valuable members of Canadian society in all walks of life.”
About 300 people made the often-hostile trek from Alabama and Oklahoma, but it was the final stretch from Edmonton – depicted on the stamp – that may have been most grueling.
“The last bit to get into Amber Valley, there was no roads or anything, no wagon train road even, they had to bushwhack their way in, cut their way in,” said Phillips.
Canada Post consulted with local historians and descendants to create the tableau. The stamp depicts settlers Henry Sneed, Jordan W. Murphy, his great-granddaughter Bernice Bowen and granddaughter Vivian Harris, as well as Amy Broady.
“A bit of an unsung hero, she was a travelling midwife,” said Phillips of Broady. “In 1910, she travelled by horse to all the different communities in northern Alberta up near Athabasca and even into Saskatchewan.”
Amber Valley’s population peaked at 1,100 – but it’s considered a ghost town now. Still, the stamp gives Canadians a chance to unearth memories from the forgotten community.
“I think they will see a thriving community with a baseball team that beat all comers in the area, and a post office, and many members of that society became lawyers and doctors,” added Phillips.
This marks the 13th year Canada Post has issued stamps for Black History Month. They go on sale Jan. 22.
“And I’m not sure they’ll be around that long due to the interest.”