James L. Dunn

James Lewellyn Dunn was born in St. Thomas, Ontario in 1848. Dunn was the son of Underground Railroad survivors. As an adult, Dunn worked as a manager at the Paint and Varnish Co. In 1867, he purchased the company and renamed it the J.L. Dunn Paint and Varnish Co. It later became the Standard Paint and Varnish Co.

Dunn was known to have worked towards desegregation of the Windsor School Board. In 1883, Dunn chose to send his daughter, Jane Ann, to the school closest to their home,Photo of James L. Dunn rather than the designated ‘colored school.’ When Jane Ann got there, the principle ordered her to leave, to which she refused. Dunn and Jack McKellar, a school board trustee, called for the elimination of the second floor of the ‘colored school’ and proposed desegregation of the older students into their local schools. Though the call was rejected by the school board, Dunn brought the case and the school board to court. While the court ruled in favour of continued segregation, Dunn was soon elected as a school trustee where he worked towards desegregation for 4 terms. After much work, the desegregation of schools finally came to pass in 1888.

Not only a businessman and equal education activities, Dunn was very active in the community, focusing on economic development and in 1887, he became the first African Canadian Alderman in the City of Windsor. During his time as an Alderman, Dunn was instrumental in the growth of Windsor’s infrastructure, helping to bring electricity, natural gas lines and other essential services to the growing municipality.

Dunn died unexpectedly at the age of 42. It was reported that his funeral was well attended by members of the community, including members of City Council and the Board of Education.

In 2020, trustees with the Windsor Board of Education approved naming a new school after Dunn. The James L. Dunn Public School was built at the former location of the International Playing Card Factory on Mercer Ave, a heritage site. The school opened its doors to students in September 2022, replacing the Giles Campus French Immersion School. The James L. Dunn Public School works to honour qualities embodied by Dunn himself, determination, community service and education.


The Black Canadian Experience in Ontario 1834-1914: Community of Interest.” Archives of Ontario, 2022. Web. Accessed Jan. 18, 2023.

Canton, Mary. “Mercer Street school to be named after Dunn, trustee and businessman.” The Windsor Star (2011-) Feb 20 2020: 1. ProQuest. Accessed Jan. 18, 2023.

Celebrating the Opening of James L. Dunn Public School. Greater Essex County District School Board. Nov. 9, 2022. Web. Accessed Jan. 24, 2023.

James L. Dunn.” African Canadian Roads to Freedom: Curriculum for Grades 1-8. Feb. 2010. Pages 36-37. Web. Accessed Jan. 24, 2023.

James L. Dunn.” Windsor West Update, Black History Month, 2019. Web. Accessed Jan. 18, 2023.

James L. Dunn.” Windsor Mosaic, African Canadian Community, 2005. Web. Accessed Jan 17, 2023.