World Coins

Underground Railroad is subject of new Royal Canadian Mint coin

A 2022 Proof silver $20 coin from Canada marks the Underground Railroad, which many American slaves followed to freedom in Canada.

Images courtesy of the Royal Canadian Mint.

The Underground Railroad, the network of safe houses and secret routes that helped enslaved people of African descent escape to freedom in Canada, is the subject of the Royal Canadian Mint’s latest issue in its ongoing Commemorating Black History coin series.

Launched Feb. 1 at the start of Black History Month, this Proof .9999 fine silver $20 coin portrays in a unique perspective the human side of the perilous northward migration.

An estimated 30,000 people used the route to escape the perils of slavery, according to the RCM, after Aug. 1, 1834, when slavery became illegal in British lands (a large part of Canada was then known as British North America).

“By remembering those who undertook the long and risky journey to escape slavery in the 19th century, as well as their brave and tireless guides, we are reminding ourselves that freedom is one of our most enduring values,” said Marie Lemay, president and CEO of the RCM.

Toronto artist Kwame Delfish designed the reverse of this coin.

The men, women and children following the Big Dipper constellation as guide to their way north to freedom, are positioned along the coin’s edge, creating a sense of motion representing their long, continuous, north-focused journey.

The obverse features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt, set against a repeating maple leaf pattern.

“This coin is meant to honour and pay homage to the ancestral slaves that escaped to the North in search of freedom,” said Delfish. “Many did not get to complete the journey and faced the same (if not more) hardships than what they left behind. The ones that made it built their legacies and shaped the mosaic that Canada is today. My hope is that their strength and courage is illustrated on this coin, and that I have sung their gospel.”

It weighs 31.39 grams and measures 38 millimeters. It has a mintage limit of 5,500 pieces and retails for $99.95 Canadian.

Order from the RCM website, www.mint.ca.

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