Moral of the story: Make sure you have a passport

| February 3, 2017
Eric Hackley

Eric Hackley

By Eric D. Hackley

On a rainy Monday afternoon, Nov. 29, 2016, I began my history tour to Ontario, Canada that enlightened me beyond my wildest imagination.

From the time I left Fort Wayne to the precise time I made it to the U.S. side of the border, it rained continuously. When I entered the Toledo, Ohio area, due to the cones and flashing lights denoting road construction, it was impossible for me to determine where my exit was. Consequently, I missed my exit and went on a scenic tour of “no man’s land,” to remote parts of Toledo that I never knew existed. Everything was dark and gray in color. I drove into a part of town where human life had apparently ceased. I saw no signs of life. I saw no gas stations, no McDonald’s, I saw nothing, not even a church. I saw no street lights, no cars, and the houses exhibited no light. I saw streets and buildings, but no people. So I concluded that perhaps I should not be here. So I did an about-face and accelerated forthrightly in the direction from which I came that led me back to I-75 and eventually I returned to civilization and living color.

Too many hours later, I arrived in Algonac, Michigan to take the ferry to Walpole Island, Ontario. It was 9 pm, cold and raining. The US Customs officers interrogated me. They asked me 101 questions. Where are you going? Who are you going to see? What is your purpose? Do you have a passport, an extended drivers license, health insurance? Who do you work for?

At that point, I handed the US Customs officers a Frost Illustrated newspaper that featured my article “Fort Wayne history narrative reform” on the front page, with my picture next to it. Finally, they said I could board the ferry. Once on the boat, the captain asked, “Where’s your passport?” I informed him that I didn’t have one. I told the captain that when I called the Canadian Customs Office, they said I didn’t need one. “Well, do you have an extended driver’s license? I said no! I’m from Indiana and only states on the U.S. Border issue extended drivers licenses.

The captain said for me to get off his boat and for me to drive to another ferry exit point. I didn’t know the area, and I went an additional 10-miles further to another U.S. Customs Office and ferry boat captain, and I had no difficulty in boarding his boat and traveling across the St. Clair River to Walpole Island, Ontario.

The moral of this story is, all black people should have a passport. In my instance, I didn’t legally need a passport to enter Canada and to return to the United States. But a passport would have helped me to avoid unnecessary headaches and confusion, even though both sides told me previously that one was not required.

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Category: Community, Features, Opinion

About the Author ()

Eric Hackley is a veteran independent journalist, television show host and producer focusing largely on history, particularly family history in the black community. His award-winning public access television shows have featured a host of local and national icons. Hackley can be contacted at

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