James L. Dunn



In November, 2015 the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) received a grant from the Ministry of Education of $15.23 million to build a permanent home for the Giles Campus French Immersion Public School.

The GECDSB purchased the International Playing Card Factory, at 1123 Mercer Street.

A city-designated heritage property, it has been modified to retain its original character. It will open in Fall 2021 with capacity for 650 students.

In June 2019, the GECDSB asked the public for help naming the school.

School Naming Committee

First, the GECDSB set up an online School Naming Survey

Then, the Board asked for community volunteers to join the naming committee (this link downloads application). 

 Harold Goldin and David Van Dyke were chosen as community at-large members. Kristen Siapas is a parent community representative on the Naming committee. Click on any of our names to email us.

Meetings continue. The process requires that two names approved by the naming committee be put forward at a GECDSB trustee meeting, whereupon a vote by the trustees will decide the final name.

Previous School Named For Black Community Hero Demolished in 2014

Dr H D Taylor Public School Replaced by West Gate Public School

Dr. H.D. Taylor was the first African-Canadian physician in Windsor.

Dr. Taylor served on the Windsor Board of Education from 1935 to 1963. He served 6 terms as the chairman of the board. He was the recipient of the Civitan Citizen of the Year Award in 1956. Campbell Avenue school was renamed in his honour as Dr. H. D. Taylor School.

Despite the accomplishments of Black Canadians and the legacy of our contributions to this community, today no Windsor schools bear the names of African-Canadians .

State Your Preference Here

Your choices will be tabulated and shared with the Windsor Public School Board ahead of the final vote.

Feedback survey

Location: Giles / Mercer

Deep in the "McDougall Street Corridor" and traditional home of African Canadians in Windsor.

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Our Cause

A new school will open in Fall 2021. There is a process underway to name the school.

There is a vote on February 18 <tentative> to decide the school's name.

It is located in the area where Windsor's Underground Railway descendants traditionally lived, often referred to as the McDougall Corridor.

In 1883, James L. Dunn, an African Canadian businessman, sued the school board after his daughter was refused entry at a "whites-only" school.

Who is James L Dunn?

Successful businessman, Lived on Windsor Avenue.

In 1883, Dunn tried to compel the Board of Education to admit his daughter to the Central Public School  but the application was dismissed by the court, with the judge accepting the Board's contention that there was insufficient space to admit any "coloured" residents.

First Black Trustee on Windsor Board of Education (1883); First Black Town of Windsor Councillor (1887-1888). Early President of the Central Citizens’ Association.

Schools remained segregated in Windsor until 1888.

In 2010, the Mayor of Windsor, proclaimed February 21-27th James and Robert Dunn (his brother) week in the City of Windsor.

How Can You Help?

Get involved, tell your friends, tell your family.

Contact your School Board Trustee.

Sarah Cipkar is the elected representative for this ward at the school board. Please email her to show your support.

Show up at Trustee meeting (date: February 18 <tentative>)


Further Background

Community Roots

The African Canadian community is part of the very foundations of the culturally diverse city that is Windsor.

It is a rich history which begins prior to Windsor's designation as a terminus on The Underground Railroad, then prospers through to the modern era.

*Below is a picture of the Windsor OddFellows, circa 1920, in Wigle Park, and just beside proposed location of New School.

Windsor: A Major Terminus on the Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was a secret network of abolitionists who helped African Americans escape from enslavement in the American South to free Northern states or to Canada.

It was the largest anti-slavery freedom movement in North America, having brought between 30,000 and 40,000 fugitives to British North America (Canada).

Unequal Access to Education

Segregated schools continued to exist in Essex County until 1965.

Several schools were predominantly Black due to segregated settlements.

These schools were underfunded and often in poor condition.

They were the only opportunities for employment for African Canadian teachers for many decades.

Hour-A-Day Study Club

Originally called “The Mothers’ Club” was founded by a group of Black women in Windsor, Ont. in 1934.

These women met to study and read for an hour a day.

They became prolific activists in the community who advocated for school achievement and support for parents.

The Hour-A-Day Study Club activism continues to this day.

Long History of Heroes

The "Reaching Out" mural at Wyandotte and McDougall celebrates the Black community’s vital role in Windsor’s development.

The important figures depicted in the mural are Mary Ann Shadd, Bishop C.L. Morton, Justin Jackson, Rev. J.T. Wagner, Walter Perry and Alton C. Parker.

McDougall Street Corridor

The “McDougall Street Corridor” has traditionally been the core of the African-Canadian community in Windsor.

This area which is delineated by Goyeau St., Windsor Ave., Mercer St. and Highland Ave. has been the hub of the African-Canadian community since the 1800’s.

The McDougall Street Reunion has occurred annually since 2003.

Tower of Freedom Underground Railroad Monument

The Tower of Freedom Underground Railroad Monument honours the flight of enslaved African Americans to freedom in Canada.

The Windsor monument is one half of the International Underground Railroad Memorial. The other is located in Detroit, in Hart Plaza (downtown).

The US-based sculpture depicts six Underground Railroad travelers awaiting transport to Canada.

The Canadian sculpture depicts the refugees’ arrival into Canada and their overwhelming emotion upon encountering freedom.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Martin Luther King

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Detailed Bio of James Llewelyn Dunn


Who Was James L Dunn?

An enterprising young man and a local hero, James Llewellyn Dunn was a descendent of the Underground Railroad. James bought the Whiting, Scarf & Company varnish works where he previously clerked. Later, in partnership with his brother Robert, the firm became Standard Paint & Varnish Co.

Dunn was an active member of the British Methodist Episcopal Church and a founding member of the Coloured Masons of Windsor. The first person of colour elected to Windsor’s Board of Education, he was later elected Alderman to the Windsor Town Council. His public career ended with his election as a Justice of the Peace.

Despite his business and political success, Dunn’s failed attempts to enrol his daughter into the white-only Public Central School led to his legal action against the Windsor Board of Education in 1883.

The Common Schools Act of 1850

The Common Schools Act of 1850 legalized separate schools for Blacks and Catholic residents in Ontario. Many schools at that time would not allow African-Canadian children to attend school with White children, nor Protestants to attend school with Catholic residents. 

The Old Negro School

In 1862, a school for "Coloured" children was established on Assumption St. between McDougall and Mercer Streets. Its legal name was the St. George School, but it was more commonly known as the “Old Negro School” or the “Old Coloured School."

In 1883, Windsor was educating its children in three schools: the Roman Catholic Separate School and the Public Central School serving only White students, and the Coloured School. The quality of the teaching and physical conditions were notably unequal.

The Fight For Equal Education

Dunn’s daughter, Jane Ann, attended the Coloured School. In September, 1883, he decided to enrol her at Public Central.

On the first day of classes, James presented her for admission. Central’s headmaster rejected the application. James held his ground and left Jane Ann at the school, instructing her to remain there until she was expelled.

The next day, James petitioned the trustees of the Windsor Board of Education to admit his child to Central. The Board denied his petition. James then hired a lawyer to file a suit claiming the reason for not admitting his child was because of her colour.

Dunn’s lawyer sought a judicial order to compel the Windsor Board of Education to admit Jane Ann to the all-white Central Public School. The motion was heard on October 2, 1883. 

The Board defended its decision, claiming that strict rules determined student enrollment, transfer and withdrawal, and that Dunn’s application did not conform to those rules.

The court ruled for the Board. When Dunn later petitioned for reimbursement of court costs, that too was denied.

Dunn’s efforts paved the way for the later desegregation of Windsor schools in 1888. His courage and determination to demand fair access to quality education for his own daughter and all the daughters and sons of his community, merit  him a place of honour in the history of our city.


More Resource Material

The Promised Land? Windsor's City Hall Square - Terminus of the Underground Railroad

by Michael Gladstone White

It's been 150 years since the Congress of  the United States passed the Fugitive Slave Act,  which immediately transformed Windsor's present City Hall Square, into a major terminus of the Underground Railway.... read the full article here.

Link to Roads To Freedom a GECDSB teaching resource on African-Canadian heritage and culture connected directly to specific learning expectations in The Ontario Curriculum

Video from Underground Railroad Descendants at the Detroit Historical Society in 2014, presented by Irene Moore Davis .  Her segment begins at 47:54.

James L. Dunn

The Time is Now For Honouring A Windsor & Community Hero.