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Black History in Canada until 1900

Black people have lived in Canada since the beginnings of transatlantic settlement. Although historically very few arrived directly from their ancestral homeland in Africa, the term "African Canadian" is used to identify all descendants of Africa regardless of their place of birth. “Black Canadian” is also used as a more general term. The earliest arrivals were enslaved people brought from New England or the West Indies. Between 1763 and 1900, most Black migrants to Canada were fleeing enslavement in the US. (See also Black Enslavement in Canada.)

See also Black History in Canada: 1900–1960 and Black History in Canada: 1960 to Present.

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Ian Alistair Mackenzie

Ian Alistair Mackenzie, politician (b at Assynt, Scot 27 July 1890; d at Banff, Alta 2 Sept 1949). After sitting in the BC Assembly 1920-30, the gregarious Mackenzie entered Parliament in Ottawa. He was minister of national defence, 1935-39, overseeing the rearmament of Canada's armed forces.

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Charles Gavan Power

Charles Gavan Power, "Chubby," lawyer, politician (b at Sillery, Qué 18 Jan 1888; d at Québec C 30 May 1968). Power was seriously wounded in WWI and won the Military Cross for gallantry. He denounced military "brass hats" ever after.

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Arthur Sturgis Hardy

Arthur Sturgis Hardy, lawyer and politician, premier of Ontario 1896-99 (b at Mount Pleasant, near Brantford, Ont 14 Dec 1837; d at Toronto 13 June 1901). After a promising early career as a lawyer and city solicitor in

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Queen Victoria

Victoria, queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India (born 24 May 1819 at Kensington Palace, London; died 22 January 1901 at Osborne House, Isle of Wight).

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Ivan Head

Ivan Leigh Head, public servant (b at Calgary, Alta 28 July 1930). A law graduate of U of A, Head taught law there 1963-67 after stints in private practice and the Dept of External Affairs. In 1967 he served as a constitutional adviser to P.E.

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Alfred Schmitz Shadd

Alfred Schmitz Shadd, educator, physician, farmer, politician, pharmacist, editor, civic leader (born 1870 in Raleigh Township, Kent County, ON; died 1915 in Winnipeg, MB).

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John Walpole Willis

John Walpole Willis, judge (b in Eng 4 Jan 1793; d in Worcestershire, Eng 10 Sept 1877). Willis arrived in Upper Canada in 1827 to take office as puisne justice of the court of King's Bench.

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Anne Cools

Anne Clare Cools, administrator, community worker, senator (born on 12 August 1943 in Barbados, British West Indies). An influential Black Canadian activist, Anne Cools served four months in jail for her role in the Sir George Williams Affair, for which she was pardoned in 1981. She founded Women in Transition, one of Canada’s first shelters for female victims of violence. She also served on the National Parole Board of Canada. In 1984, she became the first Black Canadian to be named to the Senate. She served as a Liberal, Conservative and independent senator for more than 30 years, and was known as the Dean of the Senate for her knowledge of parliamentary history and procedure.

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Kay Livingstone

Kathleen (Kay) Livingstone (née Jenkins), organizer and activist, broadcaster, actor (born 13 October 1919 in London, ON; died 25 July 1975). Kay Livingstone founded the Canadian Negro Women’s Association in 1951 and organized the first National Congress of Black Women in 1973. An established radio broadcaster and actor, Livingstone also devoted a great deal of her life and energy to social activism and organizing. Her tireless work to encourage a national discussion around the position of racialized people in society, particularly Black women, led Livingstone to coin the term visible minority in 1975.

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Judy Rebick

Judy Rebick, feminist, social activist, author, broadcaster, public speaker (born 15 August 1945 in Reno, Nevada). Judy Rebick has championed the rights of women, minorities and the working class since the 1960s. She was a member of the NDP’s Waffle caucus and a pro-choice spokesperson for the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics. She rose to national prominence as the president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (1990–93) and as the host of CBC TV programs (1994–2000). From 2002 to 2010, she was the Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson University. She is also a best-selling author and was the founding publisher of rabble.ca.

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George Brown

George Brown, journalist, politician, senator, cattle breeder (born 29 November 1818 in Alloa, Scotland; died 9 May 1880 in Toronto, ON). George Brown played an instrumental role in Confederation. A Reformer who helped bring responsible government to Upper Canada, he orchestrated the great coalition of 1864, which pushed British North America toward Confederation. He participated in the Charlottetown Conference and the Quebec Conference in 1864 and is considered a Father of Confederation. Brown’s journalistic legacy is also significant. His Globe newspaper ushered in the beginning of Canada’s big newspaper business. The widely read Globe was a vigorous force in Upper Canada politics in the 1850s. Today, it is Canada’s major daily newspaper, the Globe and Mail.

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Donald MacDonald

Donald MacDonald, trade unionist (b at Halifax 12 Sept 1909; d at Ottawa 25 Sept 1986). At age 17 MacDonald became a coal heaver on the Sydney docks. He joined the United Mine Workers and at age 21 became president of Local 4560.

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Ed Schreyer

Edward Richard Schreyer, PC, CC, CMM, teacher, politician, diplomat, premier of Manitoba 1969-1977, governor general of Canada 1979-1984 (born 21 December 1935 in Beausejour, MB). Schreyer was the first New Democrat to form a government anywhere in Canada. He was also the first Manitoban to become governor general. In that post, Schreyer was a strong advocate of bilingualism, the environment and women’s equality, and sought to make Rideau Hall more accessible to Canadians.

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Jean Augustine

Jean Augustine (née Simon), PC, CM, first Black female MP and Cabinet minister, social justice advocate, teacher, principal (born 9 September 1937 in Happy Hill, Grenada).