Search for "black history"

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Black Fur Traders in Canada

The role of Black people within the history of the fur trade is rarely considered. Black people were rarely in a position to write their own stories, so often those stories went untold. This owes to a complex set of factors including racism and limited access to literacy. Black people are also not the focus of many historical documents. However, historians have identified several Black fur traders working in different roles, and even an entire family of Black fur traders who left their mark on history.

Article

Mifflin Gibbs

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, politician, judge, diplomat, banker, entrepreneur (born 17 April 1823 in Philadelphia, PA; died 11 July 1915, in Little Rock, AR). Gibbs was a notable figure in both American and Canadian history. In just over a decade in colonial British Columbia, he prospered in business, advocated for the Black community, served as an elected official and helped guide British Columbia into Confederation. Gibbs was the first Black person elected to public office in what is now British Columbia.

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John Ware

John Ware, cowboy, rancher (born c. 1845–50 in the United States; died 11 September 1905 near Brooks, AB). John Ware is legendary in the history of Alberta for his strength and horsemanship. Born enslaved, he became a successful rancher who settled near Calgary and Brooks. He was widely admired as one of the best cowboys in the West, even at a time of widespread anti-Black racism and discrimination.

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Joseph Lewis

Joseph Lewis, alias Levi Johnston, also Lewes and Louis, fur trader (born c. 1772–73 in Manchester, New Hampshire; died 1820 in Saskatchewan District). Joseph Lewis was a Black fur trader, originally from the United States, who participated in the fur industry’s early expansion into the Canadian Northwest in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He is one of very few Black people involved in the fur trade whose name was documented in existing texts. Joseph Lewis is further notable for being the first Black person in present-day Saskatchewan, as well as, in all likelihood, Alberta.

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Jamaican Maroons in Nova Scotia

The ancestors of the Maroons of Jamaica were enslaved Africans who had been brought there by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries, and later by the British (who captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655), to work its lucrative sugar plantations. The word maroon was widely used to describe a runaway, and maroonage to denote the act and action of escaping enslavement, whether temporarily or permanently. After a series of wars with the colonial government in Jamaica, one group of Maroons was deported to Nova Scotia in 1796. While Maroon communities existed in Nova Scotia for only four years before they were sent to Sierra Leone, their legacy in Canada endures.

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Black Volunteers in the First World War

Archivist Barbara M. Wilson explores the significance of a letter sent to Sir Sam Hughes by George Morton, a letter carrier, barber and civil rights advocate from Hamilton, Ontario. In his letter, dated 7 September 1915, Morton asked the minister of militia and defence why members of the Black community were being turned away when trying to enlist for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War.

Editorial

Editorial: The Arrival of Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia

“Freedom and a Farm.” The promise was exciting to the thousands of African Americans, most seeking to escape enslavement, who fought in British regiments during the American Revolutionary War (1775–83). Following the war, they joined tens of thousands of Loyalists — American refugees who had sided with the British. Between 80,000 and 100,000 Loyalists eventually fled the United States. About half came to British North America. The main waves arrived in 1783 and 1784. The territory that now includes the Maritime provinces became home to more than 30,000 Loyalists. Most of coastal Nova Scotia received Loyalist settlers, as did Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island (then called St. John’s Island).

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Loyalists in Canada

Loyalists were American colonists, of different ethnic backgrounds, who supported the British cause during the American Revolutionary War(1775–83). Tens of thousands of Loyalists migrated to British North America during and after the war. This boosted the population, led to the creation of Upper Canada and New Brunswick, and heavily influenced the politics and culture of what would become Canada.

(This is the full-length entry about Loyalists in Canada. For a plain-language summary, please see Loyalists in Canada (Plain-Language Summary).)

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Joshua Mauger

Joshua Mauger, colonial entrepreneur, sea captain, politician (baptized 25 April 1725 in the parish of St. John, Jersey; died 18 October 1788 at Warborne, near Lymington, England). Mauger was one of Nova Scotia’s wealthiest and most influential merchants in the 18th century. Although he only spent 11 years in the colony, he exerted significant power in its business and politics for two decades after. His complex involvement with Nova Scotia underscores the bonds of subservience and influence that hindered the colony’s early development. Mauger also enslaved Black people and built a significant portion of his business empire on the labour of enslaved people.

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Acadian Heritage

This collection explores the rich heritage of the Acadians through articles and exhibits, as well as quizzes on arts and culture, history and politics, historical figures, and places associated with the Acadian people.

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Marie Rollet

Marie Rollet, first Frenchwoman to settle in New France (born circa 1580 in Paris, France; died in May 1649 and buried 27 May 1649 in Quebec City, New France). She is recognized as the first female French farmer in New France, alongside her husband Louis Hébert.

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Lumberjacks

Lumberjacks hold a permanent place in Canadian folklore and history. While the practice of felling trees has been taking place for thousands of years — beginning with Aboriginal people and continuing with the arrival of the first Europeans — the professional lumberjack was born around the turn of the 18th century. Though the profession has undergone many changes, lumberjacks still play an important role in the Canadian forestry industry.

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Beothuk

Beothuk (meaning “the people” or “true people” in their language) were the now-extinct inhabitants of Newfoundland. At the time of European contact, they may have numbered no more than 500 to 1,000. Their population is difficult to estimate owing to a reduction in their territories in the early contact period and the absence of surviving documentation.

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Shawnadithit

Shawnadithit (also known as Nance or Nancy April), the last Beothuk (born circa 1800-6 in what is now NL; died 6 June 1829 in St. John’s, NL). Shawnadithit’s record of Beothuk culture continues to shape modern understandings of her people. In 2007, the federal government announced the unveiling of a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (See Historic Site) plaque recognizing Shawnadithit’s importance to Canadian history.

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Demasduwit

Demasduwit (also known as Shendoreth, Waunathoake, Mary March), one of the last of the Beothuk (born 1796; died 8 January 1820 at Bay of Exploits, Newfoundland). Demasduwit helped to preserve the Beothuk language and culture. In 2007, the Canadian government recognized her as a person of national historic significance.

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Jesuit Relations

Jesuit Relations (Relations des jésuites), the voluminous annual documents sent from the Canadian mission of the Society of Jesus to its Paris office, 1632-72, compiled by missionaries in the field, edited by their Québec superior, and printed in France by Sébastien Cramoisy.

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Jesuits

The Society of Jesus was founded in Paris in 1534 by Saint Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish soldier who underwent a profound religious experience while recovering from serious wounds.