Search for "black history"

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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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Shell Middens

Archaeologists and natural historians have long been fascinated by shell middens because of their great potential to enhance information about human adaptations and cultures. Early studies focused on the Mesolithic køkkenmøddinger ("kitchen middens") of northern Europe, but similar studies were conducted in Canada by the late 19th century. The English term midden is derived from a Scandinavian root referring to a trash heap composed of domestic refuse and located near a dwelling.

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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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Slavery Abolition Act, 1833

​An Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies; for promoting the Industry of the manumitted slaves; and for compensating the Persons hitherto entitled to the Service of such Slaves (also known as the Slavery Abolition Act) received Royal Assent on 28 August 1833 and took effect 1 August 1834. The Act abolished enslavement in most British colonies, freeing over 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South Africa as well as a small number in Canada.

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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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Political History

Political history is the study of the processes, activities and institutions of governments, the influences on them and the individuals involved with them.

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Canada's History

Canada's History (until 2010, The Beaver), a magazine published by the Hudson's Bay Company, was started in 1920 as a staff magazine as part of the company's 250th anniversary celebrations.

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Music History

Since colonization began in the 17th century, the mainstream of musical development has been little affected by native music. The original settlers transplanted their songs, dances and religious chants, and successive waves of immigrants reinforced old-world traditions.

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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.

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Enslavement of Indigenous People in Canada

To a tremendous extent, the enslavement of Indigenous peoples defines slavery in Canada. Fully two-thirds of the slaves in the colony of New France were Indigenous. After 1750, the number of Indigenous slaves brought into French Canada began to decline. When slavery was abolished in British colonies in 1834, Black slaves far outnumbered Indigenous slaves. (See also Black Enslavement in Canada.) The enslavement of Indigenous peoples is part of a dark legacy of colonization that has had implications on generations of Indigenous peoples in Canada and throughout North America.

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Constitutional Act, 1791

The Constitutional Act, 1791 was an act of the British Parliament. Also known as the Canada Act, it divided the Province of Quebec into  Upper Canada and Lower Canada. The Act was a first step on the long path to Confederation, but its rigid colonial structures also set the stage for rebellion in the Canadas. (See Rebellions of 1837–38.) The Act was also notable for giving women who owned property in Lower Canada the right to vote — a high level of inclusion by the standards of the time.