William Peyton Hubbard 1842 - 1935

First Black City of Toronto Alderman

William Peyton Hubbard was born in Toronto. He was the son of refugee American slaves who arrived in Canada in 1840 via the Underground Railroad. They had escaped from their plantation in Virginia.

Although a baker by trade, Hubbard eventually joined his uncle’s livery taxi service. Apparently one winter evening he rescued another cab and its passenger, newspaper publisher George Brown, from drowning in the Don River. Brown eventually hired Hubbard to be his personal driver. They became great friends and it was George Brown who encouraged Hubbard to run for public office.

William P. Hubbard was the first person of African descent on Toronto’s City Council. First elected in 1894, he served for 15 years. He was well-known for his strong political views, his keen wit and his dynamic oratory skills. His command of language was such that his fellow politicians nicknamed him “Old Cicero.” While in office he was a champion of the little man, and he fought to protect the rights of Chinese laundry owners. Among his many achievements, he partnered with Sir Adam Beck to keep the hydro system public. This led to the campaign to create Toronto Hydro.

He was a close friend of the first Canadian-born Black doctor, Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott.

Hubbard eventually retired and built a home at 660 Broadview Avenue, now part of Montcrest School. He died there at the age of 93.

To quote him, he said, “I have always felt that I am a representative of a race hitherto despised but given a fair opportunity would be able to command esteem.”

His name appears on a monument on his family’s plot in the Toronto Necropolis. However, he is buried in an unmarked grave about 100 yards from his family’s.

 

Plaque in front of Hubbard’s house on Broadview Avenue

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