remarked, “but do we know that the story of African-Canadians spans 400 years, and includes slavery, abolition, pioneering, urban growth, segregation, the civil rights movement and a long engagement in civic life?”

">

Black History Month in Canada: a five point primer


Published:

How much do you know about Black history in Canada and in Toronto? How much is there to know? “The average sixteen-year-old in Canada can tell you something about slavery and abolition in the United States,” Toronto author Lawrence Hill once remarked, but “do we know that the story of African-Canadians spans 400 years, and includes slavery, abolition, pioneering, urban growth, segregation, the civil rights movement and a long engagement in civic life?”

As we begin Black History Month 2012, here are a few things you might want to know.

1. Back in 1926, African-American historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson initiated “Negro History Week” to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. But there’s too much history for just one week so, on both sides of the border, February became Black History Month. It was celebrated in Toronto as far back as 1950. And this year, the month is one day longer!

2. Toronto was Canada’s first municipality to officially adopt Black History Month. After Toronto MP Jean Augustine introduced a motion, passed unanimously by the House of Commons in 1995, Black History Month became recognized across Canada.

3. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is just outside Dresden, Ontario. That is to say, the cabin of Reverend Josiah Henson, on whose life Harriet Beecher Stowe based the classic anti-slavery novel. It’s only 300km from Toronto.

4. You may know that the Underground Railroad led to Windsor, St. Catharines and Owen Sound, but did you know about the Toronto connection? In 1985, the site of what is now Inglenook Community High School, the Toronto District School Board’s oldest continually operating school, was discovered to have been a terminus of the Underground Railroad back when it was inhabited by Lucie and Thornton Blackburn in the 1800s.

5. Black loyalists and slavery are two aspects of Canadian history of which many people are quite unaware. Black history in Canada goes back as far as Samuel de Champlain, whose translator was a free African polyglot named Mathieu Da Costa.

Don’t want a history lesson? Why not read a great novel, like Half-Blood Blues or The Book of Negroes. (You can’t escape history, so you might as well enjoy it.)

Evan Andrew Mackay is a Toronto playwright and humourist who writes about culture and social justice.

Edit Module

Join the conversation and have your say by commenting below. Our comment system uses a Facebook plugin. Please note that you'll have to turn off some ad-blockers in order to see the comments.

Edit Module

Follow us on Twitter @PostCity for more on what to eat, where to shop and what to do in Toronto.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

Dr. Jess on Sex: How one Toronto couple’s perfect marriage was threatened by technology

Dr. Jess on Sex: How one Toronto couple’s perfect marriage was threatened by technology

Local couple thought their marriage was perfect, until the topic of technology arose.
Posted 3 hours ago
Tomorrow the month made for twins kicks off

Tomorrow the month made for twins kicks off

The zodiac sign Gemini enters its course on May 21. Those born under this sign are said to have a dual nature, symbolized by twins. This inspired us to take a look at Toronto’s most famous duos and get the inside scoop on what it’s really like to have an other half.
Posted 4 days ago
City Hacks: Cottaging in the city for the Victoria Day long weekend

City Hacks: Cottaging in the city for the Victoria Day long weekend

With the price of real estate in the city going through the roof, some families might find it harder to invest in a vacation property, especially one that comes with a Muskoka price tag. To that end, there are a myriad of ways to enjoy a cottage-like experience right in Toronto.
Posted 4 days ago
Stratford star Cynthia Dale’s five must-reads

Stratford star Cynthia Dale’s five must-reads

A Little Night Music, starring Dale, opens this weekend at the 2016 Stratford Festival. She gave us her list of five must-read books.
Posted 5 days ago