Listen to Strong and Free, a six-part podcast from Historica Canada, produced by Media Girlfriends. Because Black history is Canadian history.
Tracing stories from the earliest Black settlers to recently arrived Canadians, Strong and Free captures just a few of the crucial stories of Black Canadians thriving and contributing to building this country.
West Indian Domestic Scheme: Nurturing a Nation
From 1955 to 1967, Canada ran a recruitment initiative known as the West Indian Domestic Scheme. Young women from English-speaking Caribbean countries could come to Canada as domestic workers. These women were crucial to the economic and cultural growth of the country, and the Canadian idea of multiculturalism was built, in part, on the backs of these women.
In this episode, Eva Bailey, mother of host Garvia Bailey, remembers her experience coming to Canada shortly after the scheme. We also speak with associate professor Karen Flynn, who explores the feminist revolution as well as the social mobility this immigration scheme encouraged.
Herb Carnegie: Black Excellence on – and off – the Ice
Herb Carnegie is widely regarded as the best Black player to never play in the NHL. He played competitive hockey in the 1940s and 1950s, mostly in the Quebec and Ontario Junior A and senior leagues. In this episode, we learn about Herb’s story of Black excellence on and off the ice, and speak with Kwame Mason, director and producer of the “Soul on Ice” film and podcast, and Bernice Carnegie, daughter of Herb Carnegie, and co-founder of the Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation.
Marie-Josèphe Angélique : Montreal on Fire
Marie-Josèphe Angélique was an enslaved Black woman owned by Thérèse de Couagne de Francheville in Montreal. In 1734, she was charged with arson after a fire leveled Montreal’s merchants’ quarter. It was alleged that Angélique committed the act while attempting to flee her bondage. She was convicted, tortured, and hanged. While it remains unknown whether she set the fire, Angélique’s story has come to symbolize Black resistance and freedom.
We discuss Angélique’s story, and that of enslavement in Canada, with three women who have examined the trial: Dr. Afua Cooper, historian, poet, and professor at Dalhousie University; Denyse Beaugrand-Champagne, historian and archivist, and Ayana O’Shun, director of “Black Hands: Trial of the Arsonist Slave.”
Mary Ann Shadd: Journalism, Activism, and the Power of Words
Mary Ann Shadd Cary was the first Black woman to publish a newspaper in North America. But Mary Ann Shadd didn’t just make history by being first. With her newspaper “The Provincial Freeman,” she captured history. Today, her perspective deepens our understanding of the past and is an example of why representation in journalism matters.
In this episode, we have the pleasure of speaking with two of Shadd’s descendants: Marishana Mabusela, our researcher for this podcast, and her mother, writer and historian Adrienne Shadd.
John Ware: The Legend of Canada’s "First" Black Cowboy
Known for his strength and horsemanship and his innovative ranching techniques, John Ware was a legendary Albertan. Born into enslavement, he became a successful rancher and eventually settled near Calgary. He was widely admired as one of the best cowboys in the West, even at a time of widespread anti-Black racism and discrimination.
We turn to Cheryl Foggo, author, playwright, screenwriter, and director of John Ware Reclaimed and Karina Vernon, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough, to learn more about this legendary Black hero who had a hand in shaping Canada’s prairie culture.
Haitian Diaspora in Quebec: Rhymes and Revolution
In the 1960s and 70s, Quebec saw an influx of Haitian immigrants fleeing Francois Duvalier’s dictatorship. By 1971, thousands of Haitians had immigrated to Quebec, the only other majority French-speaking society in North America. Arriving mostly in Montreal, Haitians encountered the Quiet Revolution, the perfect setting to establish their exiled community and combat Duvalier’s regime from abroad. Their battle for liberation infused with Quebec’s own.
But who are these Haitian immigrants, and what do we really know about their history? We speak with musician Jenny Salgado (a.k.a. J Kyll) and educator and historian Alain Saint-Victor to learn more about the relationship between Haiti and Quebec and the influences of the Haitian community in “la belle province.”