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Algonquin

The Algonquin are Indigenous peoples that have traditionally occupied parts of western Quebec and Ontario, centring on the Ottawa River and its tributaries. Algonquin should not be confused with Algonquian, which refers to a larger linguistic and cultural group, including First Nations such as Innu and Cree. In the 2016 census, 40,880 people identified as having Algonquin ancestry.

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Thornton and Lucie Blackburn

Thornton and Lucie (Ruthie) Blackburn, freedom seekers, entrepreneurs, anti-slavery activists and community benefactors (Thornton, born c. 1812 in Maysville, Kentucky; died in 1890 in Toronto, ON. Lucie, born c. 1803, possibly in the West Indies; died in 1895 in Toronto). After a dramatic flight from Kentucky slavery, their recapture in Detroit two years later in 1833 resulted in the Blackburn Riots. Demands for their extradition prompted Upper Canada to establish its first refugee reception policy (see Refugees to Canada). Settling in Toronto, the Blackburns devoted their time and considerable wealth to anti-slavery and African Canadian community causes. (See also Anti-Slavery Society of Canada.) Childless, and having never learned to read or write, their story was nearly forgotten until archaeologists (see Archaeology) unearthed the site of their former home in 1985. The Blackburns’ former property was the first Underground Railroad site ever dug in Canada.

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Black Canadians and Conscription in the First World War

In 1917, the Canadian government passed the Military Service Act, which made all male citizens (aged 20 to 45) subject to conscription. As the First World War (1914–18) dragged on, the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) desperately needed reinforcements, as the number of volunteers had nearly dried up. Earlier in the war, Black volunteers had faced resistance and opposition in their efforts to enlist. However, Black Canadians were not exempt from conscription and at least 350 were drafted into the CEF. Those who served overseas worked primarily with the Canadian Forestry Corps, although some also served on the frontlines.

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Willie O'Ree

Willie O’Ree, CM, ONB, hockey player (born 15 October 1935 in Fredericton, NB). On 18 January 1958, Willie O’Ree became the first Black hockey player to play in the National Hockey League (NHL). He played professional hockey for more than 20 years, including 45 games with the Boston Bruins. Since 1998, O’Ree has been the NHL’s Director of Youth Development and ambassador for NHL Diversity. He is a Member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of New Brunswick. He has been inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, the Hockey Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. The Boston Bruins retired O’Ree’s No. 22 on 18 January 2022 ? the 64th anniversary of his first NHL game.

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No. 2 Construction Battalion

On 5 July 1916, the Department of Defence and Militia authorized the formation of No. 2 Construction Battalion. It was the largest Black unit in Canadian history. Its members continued the proud tradition of service to king and country that went back to the American Revolution and continued through the War of 1812 and the Rebellions of 1837–38 to the start of the First World War. But there were many obstacles: Black soldiers and communities faced racism both at home and overseas, despite their commitment to the war effort.

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Karim Ouellet

Karim Ouellet, Quebec songwriter, composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist (born 8 December 1984 in Dakar, Senegal; died 17 January 2022 in Quebec City, Qc). He is the standard-bearer of an intelligent brand of pop music flavoured with soul, reggae, folk and electroacoustic elements. His poise, velvety voice and catchy refrains make him a distinctive artist. In 2007, he started working more and more with Quebec City artists (CEA, Webster, Limoilou Starz) and was part of the band Movèzerbe. At the same time, he set the stage for his solo career by taking part in the 5 fois 5 music project at the Théâtre Petit Champlain, a showcase for young, up-and-coming Quebec artists. He later played at the Francofolies music festival in La Rochelle, France. In 2009, he made a strong impression by making it to the finals at the Granby International Song Festival. In 2011, with his first album, Plume, Karim Ouellet caught the eye of both the public and the music industry. He won the Pop Album of the Year award at the Gala Alternatif de la Musique Indépendante du Québec, which recognizes excellence in independent music. In 2012, he had his first hit, “L’amour,” from his album Fox, earning him his first major public recognition.

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Eleanor Collins

Elnora Ruth Collins (née Procter), CM, singer, actor (born 21 November 1919 in Edmonton, Alberta). Canada’s “first lady of jazz,” Eleanor Collins was the first Canadian woman and the first Black entertainer in Canada to have her own national television show, CBC TV’s The Eleanor Show (1955). Often compared to American singer Lena Horne, Collins performed on many television and radio variety shows, as well as in clubs. She is a member of the Order of Canada and the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame and the recipient of numerous lifetime achievement awards. Canada Post released a commemorative stamp in her honour in January 2022.

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Colored Hockey League

The Colored 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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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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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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Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary, educator, publisher, abolitionist (born 9 October 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware; died 5 June 1893 in Washington, DC). Mary Ann Shadd was the first Black female newspaper publisher in Canada. Shadd founded and edited The Provincial Freeman. She also established a racially integrated school for Black refugees in Windsor, Canada West. She played an important role in giving Black people a voice and advocating for women’s rights. In 1994, Shadd was designated a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada.

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Dominique Gaspard

Dominique François Gaspard, physician and community builder (born 22 December 1884 in New Orleans, Louisiana; died 6 February 1938 in Montreal, QC). Gaspard was a respected doctor and a trailblazer in Montreal’s Black district. After serving with distinction at a field hospital during the First World War, he devoted himself to medical practice in Montreal. He also worked to create social and intellectual outlets for Black men in the city. A bilingual Catholic, he was unique in the city’s early-20th-century anglophone  Protestant Black community. His story speaks of a complexity of language, ethnicity and migration not often explored in narratives of Quebec’s English-speaking and Black communities.

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Black Hawk

Black Hawk (Black Sparrow Hawk, Makataimeshekiakiak), Sauk War Chief (b at Saukenuk, near Rock Island, Ill, 1767; d near Des Moines, Iowa, 3 Oct 1838).

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Four the Moment

Four the Moment, was an a cappella quartet formed in 1981 in Halifax by Delvina and Kim Bernard, Jackie Barkley, and Deanna Sparks.

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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).