Search for "black history"

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Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia

Located in Cherry Brook, near Dartmouth (Halifax Regional Municipality), the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia has been open to the public since 1983. It is run by the Black Cultural Society, created in 1977. The centre is both a museum and a gathering place where people can explore the history and heritage of Black communities in Nova Scotia.

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Racial Segregation of Black People in Canada

Racial segregation is the separation of people, or groups of people, based on race in everyday life. Throughout Canada’s history, there have been many examples of Black people being segregated, excluded from, or denied equal access to opportunities and services such as education, employment, housing, transportation, immigration, health care and commercial establishments. The racial segregation of Black people in Canada was historically enforced through laws, court decisions and social norms.

See also Prejudice and Discrimination in Canada and Racism.

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Black Lives Matter-Canada

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a decentralized movement to end anti-Black racism. It was founded as an online community in the United States in 2013 in response to the acquittal of the man who killed Black teenager Trayvon Martin. Its stated mission is to end white supremacy and state-sanctioned violence and to liberate Black people and communities. The Black Lives Matter hashtag (#BlackLivesMatter) has been used to bring attention to discrimination and violence faced by Black people. BLM has chapters in the United States and around the world. There are five chapters in Canada: Toronto (BLM-TO), Vancouver (BLM-VAN), Waterloo Region, Edmonton, and New Brunswick.

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Black Cross Nurses in Canada

The Black Cross Nurses (BCN) is an auxiliary group intended for female members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The BCN was modeled on the nurses of the Red Cross. Its first chapter was launched in Philadelphia in May 1920. Under the leadership of Henrietta Vinton Davis, the BCN quickly became one of the UNIA’s most popular and iconic auxiliary groups. Offering a safe and inviting place for the Black community, UNIA halls became important cultural hubs in many cities and towns across Canada, where BCN divisions were also established. Although they were not professionally trained nurses, members of the BCN were expected to provide care and advice on matters of health and hygiene.

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Black Enslavement in Canada

In early Canada, the enslavement of African peoples was a legal instrument that helped fuel colonial economic enterprise. The buying, selling and enslavement of Black people was practiced by European traders and colonists in New France in the early 1600s, and lasted until it was abolished throughout British North America in 1834. During that two-century period, settlers in what would eventually become Canada were involved in the transatlantic slave trade. Canada is further linked to the institution of enslavement through its history of international trade. Products such as salted cod and timber were exchanged for slave-produced goods such as rum, molasses, tobacco and sugar from slaveholding colonies in the Caribbean. 

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

(See also Olivier Le Jeune; Sir David KirkeChloe Cooley and the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada; Underground Railroad; Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; Slavery Abolition Act, 1833Slavery of Indigenous People in Canada.)

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Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was a secret network of abolitionists (people who wanted to abolish slavery). They helped African Americans escape from enslavement in the American South to free Northern states or to Canada. The Underground Railroad was the largest anti-slavery freedom movement in North America. It brought between 30,000 and 40,000 fugitives to British North America (now Canada).

This is the full-length entry about the Underground Railroad. For a plain language summary, please see The Underground Railroad (Plain-Language Summary).

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Colored Hockey League

The Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes (CHL) was an all-Black men’s hockey league. It was organized by Black Baptists and Black intellectuals and was founded in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1895. It was defunct during and after the First World War, reformed in 1921 and then fell apart during the Depression in the 1930s. Play was known to be fast, physical and innovative. The league was designed to attract young Black men to Sunday worship with the promise of a hockey game between rival churches after the services. Later, with the influence of the Black Nationalism Movement — and with rising interest in the sport of hockey — the league came to be seen as a potential driving force for the equality of Black Canadians. Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp in honour of the league in January 2020.

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Sleeping Car Porters in Canada

Sleeping car porters were railway employees who attended to passengers aboard sleeping cars. Porters were responsible for passengers’ needs throughout a train trip, including carrying luggage, setting up beds, pressing clothes and shining shoes, and serving food and beverages, among other services. The vast majority of sleeping car porters were Black men and the position was one of only a few job opportunities available to Black men in Canada. While the position carried respect and prestige for Black men in their communities, the work demanded long hours for little pay. Porters could be fired suddenly and were often subjected to racist treatment. Black Canadian porters formed the first Black railway union in North America (1917) and became members of the larger Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1939. Both unions combatted racism and the many challenges that porters experienced on the job.

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Order-in-Council P.C. 1911-1324 — the Proposed Ban on Black Immigration to Canada

Order-in-Council P.C. 1324 was approved on 12 August 1911 by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The purpose of the order was to ban Black persons from entering Canada for a period of one year because, it read, “the Negro race…is deemed unsuitable to the climate and requirements of Canada.” The order-in-council was the culmination of what researcher R. Bruce Shepard has called Canada’s “campaign of diplomatic racism.” Though the order never became law, the actions of government officials made it clear that Black immigrants were not wanted in Canada (see Immigration).

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IODE (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire)

The IODE is a women’s charitable organization in Canada that focuses on children, education and community service. Originally known as the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, the organization was founded in 1900 to promote and support the British empire and its soldiers. The name IODE was officially adopted in 1979. The charity has approximately 3,000 members and more than 200 branches across Canada.

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Sir George Williams Affair

The Sir George Williams affair (also known as the Sir George Williams riot) took place in winter 1969, when more than 200 students decided to peacefully occupy the ninth floor of the Henry F. Hall Building at Sir George Williams University in Montréal. These students were protesting the university administration’s decision regarding a complaint of racism that had been filed several months earlier by six Black students from the Caribbean. On 11 February 1969, to dislodge the students occupying the building, the police intervened forcefully, and the situation deteriorated, resulting in over $2 million worth of damage and the arrest of 97 people. The Sir George Williams affair is regarded as the largest student riot in Canadian history. For many observers and historians, it represents a key moment in the rebirth of black militancy in Montréal.

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Shelburne Race Riots

On 26 July 1784, a mob of Loyalist settlers stormed the home of a Black preacher in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. They were armed with hooks and chains seized from ships in the harbour. The confrontation ignited a wave of violence in Shelburne County that lasted approximately 10 days. The majority of the attacks targeted the county’s free Black population. The Shelburne Riot has been described as the first race riot in North America. (See also British North America.)

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Heritage Minutes

The Heritage Minutes collection is a bilingual series of history-focused public service announcements. Each 60-second short film depicts a significant person, event or story in Canadian history. They are produced by Historica Canada, the not-for-profit organization that also publishes this encyclopedia. First released in 1991, the Heritage Minutes have been shown on television, in cinemas and online. They have become a recognizable part of Canadian culture. The collection currently includes 96 episodes.

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Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is an African-American cultural holiday that has been adopted around the world including in Canada to celebrate African family, community and culture.

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Social History

Social history is a way of looking at how a society organizes itself and how this changes over time. The elements that make up Canada’s social history include climate and geography, as well as the transition to industrialization and urbanization.