Windsor

Windsor's first black police officers honored

Det. Alton Parker dropped his job as a mechanic to become Windsor's first black police officer back in 1942, overcoming great odds by taking an oath to serve and protect in a city where black people weren't allowed on golf courses or in many restaurants and bars.

Alton Parker received many honours, including the Order of Canada and the Ontario Medal of Bravery

Frieda Steele is the daughter of Alton Parker. (Colin Côté-Paulette/CBC)

Sitting in the living room of her home in south Windsor, Frieda Parker Steele remembers fondly her father, Det. Alton Parker, or "Uncle Al" as she affectionately refers to him.

Her dad dropped his paying job as a mechanic to become Windsor's first black police officer back in 1942.

Parker overcame great odds by taking an oath to serve and protect in a city where black people weren't allowed on golf courses or in many restaurants and bars.

"He was asked if he was comfortable patrolling the black community. He said, yes, but he had been hired for the whole city," 88-year-old Frieda Parker said.

Tribute to the trailblazers

Windsor police officers are honouring trailblazers like Parker in a 15-minute video tribute to be shown in dozens of schools throughout the Windsor region for Black History Month.

"We want to educate young people about the accomplishments of these men during a difficult time and also inspire members of all the cultural communities of Windsor to become a police officer," Sgt. Wren Dosant said.

Statue of Alton Parker in Windsor. (Colin Côté-Paulette/CBC)

The video focuses on Alton C. Parker, Howard Watkins, Charles Peterson, and Kenneth Johnson, who were the grandchildren of slaves, who fled the United States to settle in Canada when slavery was abolished in 1833. 

"These men are my heroes," said Jim Allen, director of Windsor Cultural Centre and a former police officer. "It's thanks to them that I became a policeman."

Racism was a major issue

Frieda Parker Steele recalled one of those inspiring moments where her father stood up to systemic racism in the community.

The master of ceremonies at a social function with all police forces in Ontario dropped a racist joke while addressing the crowd. That's when her father quietly stood up, buttoned his coat and left the room.

"Racism was a major issue in the 1950s and 1960s," Allen said. "There were places in the city where you did not go when it was dark when you were an African-Canadian."

Alton Parker received many honours during his career, including the Order of Canada and the Ontario Medal of Bravery.

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