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Mathieu De Costa is known to many as the first free Black person to arrive on Turtle Island (Anishinaabek teaching) in what is known as Canada. Unfortunately that’s not true. While in prison De Costa’s contract was bought by Pierre Du Gua which is what led to him being a translator during the Champlain voyages up the St.Lawrence.
It is believed that De Costa was able to be a translator and mediator between the Mi’kmaq and the French by using traditional African knowledge around trade.
The Honourable Jean Augustine, born in Grenada, immigrated to Canada in 1960 under the West Indian Domestic Scheme. A graduate from the University of Toronto, she started her work in education and eventually was elected as the 𝗙𝗜𝗥𝗦𝗧 Black woman to be elected to Parliament (1993), Cabinet (2002) and to occupy the Speakers Chair (2004). She has been Secretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women), Fairness Commissioner (2007) and the founder and chair of the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians on Population & Development.
Continuously paving the way for us all, The Honourable Jean Augustine is a Black Canadian Hero.
Built in 1749 by African Slaves, Africville soon became a settlement and community for people of African descent. Either former slaves, Black loyalist or Maroons, many called this place home. Establishing the 𝗦𝗲𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗲𝘄 𝗔𝗳𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗕𝗮𝗽𝘁𝗶𝘀𝘁 𝗖𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵 (1849) and the 𝗔𝗳𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗕𝗮𝗽𝘁𝗶𝘀𝘁 𝗔𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 (1854), Africville built itself up into a safe haven for Black Nova Scotians
Despite that Halifax continuously used its power to subject the residents to discrimination and oppression. They build a prison (1853), an infectious disease hospital (1870) a slaughter house and eventually a town dump (1958). After surviving all of these injustices Africville was destroyed and its residents forcibly relocated between 1964 and 1967. Despite an apology and monuments being built in the dog park that now sits over the original site of Africville, Black Nova Scotians still face racism and institutional discrimination. But don't get confused, they are still some of the most 𝗥𝗘𝗦𝗜𝗟𝗜𝗘𝗡𝗧 people you'll meet.
In 1992 Black people living in Toronto took to downtown Yonge street in a protest against police brutality towards Black bodies. While Black folks were expressing their outrage in solidarity with those in LA over the Rodney King verdict, they had pain of their own. Two days earlier 22 year old, Jamaican immigrant 𝗥𝗮𝘆𝗺𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝗟𝗮𝘄𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 had been brutally murdered by a white plain clothes officer. A few weeks prior to this, two white peel police officers were acquitted for killing unarmed 17 year old 𝗠𝗶𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗲𝗹 𝗪𝗮𝗱𝗲 𝗟𝗮𝘄𝘀𝗼𝗻.
While Toronto has a LONG history of police brutality against Black bodies, it has just as long had those who stood up against it.
Marie-Joseph Angélique, born circa 1705 in Madeira, Portugal, was a Black woman enslaved in Montreal, Quebec by Thérèse de Couagne de Francheville. She was enslaved in Portugal, sold to Flemish merchant, brought to New England and sold to Thérèse husband, Angélique had been sold twice by the age of 20. In December 1733 she asked for her freedom and was denied. She then began rebel even more against her enslavement. Even running away with her lover Thibault. Caught and returned to her owner, it was in 1734 when Angélique was accused of burning down old Montreal. Through a spectacle of a trial she was eventually convicted and sentenced to be tortured, hung and then burned. While Angélique eventually confessed to the crime (after being tortured) we will never really know who burnt the city down.
That being said Marie-Joseph Angélique will reman a symbol of Black resilience and freedom in Canada.
Founded in 1984 by lesbian activists: Debbie Douglas, Sylmadel Coke, and gay activists: Douglas Stewart and Deryck Glodon. Zami, named after the Audre Lorde book of the same title and a West Indian Creole word for lesbian. Zami became not only a support group but also the visible Black queer organization in the city of Toronto. Taking part in in Pride Day marches, holding social events, they became the black presence in lesbian and gay community events.
Eventually Zami became a largely gay men's organization while the Black Caribbean Queer women became more involved in organizing around black feminist issues, working across intersections of gender, race and sexual orientation forming the Black Women's Collective. That being said forBlack gay men, Sami had become one of the few spaces where they didn't have to deal with the racism of white gay spaces. Many of Zami’s members eventually became involved in starting the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention in 1989 and Zami eventually ceased to exist in that same year and folks moved on to other endeavours.
We are forever thankful for the legacy they left behind.
1785 was a dark time for Black Canadians living in the town of Shelburne, Nova Scotia. Any expression of independence or joy by Black residents were condemned as evidence of immorality. On may 12th city officials went on a crusade of banning dances, 'frolicking', and gambling that were popular activities among the town's free Black residents. Handbills were printed and distributed around town prohibiting dances and “Negro Frolicks”, and offenders were convicted and thrown in jail. Still Black residents of Shelburne rebelled by continuing, the frolicking and dances. A year later Black residents were entirely banned from gathering for non-religious purposes. Repeat offenders might have their homes seized by the town.
The Oro community was established in 1819 as he only government-sponsored Black settlement in Upper Canada. It was also started to help secure the defence of the province's northern frontier. Black veterans of the War of 1812 were offered land grants to settle there. By 1831, the community soon numbered about 100. The settlement eventually declined, however, as farmers discouraged by the poor soil and harsh climate gradually drifted away.
Today only thing that remains as a testament to this early Black community is the African Episcopal church erected near Edgar in 1849.
The Hogan’s Valley Black settlement dates back to 1858 when Black governor James Douglas introduced a policy welcoming Black Californians to the province of British Columbia. With a Great Northern Railway station nearby this also meant that many Black porters chose Hogan’s Alley as a home in the 1920s.
At the height of the communities vibrancy, Hogan’s Alley became an entertainment district attracting the likes of Sammy Davis Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald. Jimi Hendrix would visit his Grandmother who lived in the community. Over the years, the neighbourhood met challenges due to racism and institutionalized inequities. The city’s efforts to rezone Strathcona made it difficult for Black residents to obtain mortgages or loans for home improvements. Newspaper articles stereotyped Hogan’s Alley as a centre of squalor, immorality and crime, but forgot to mention the cities attempts to further marginalize the community by delay or refusing garbage pick up.
1850 saw ‘the Common Schools Act,’ the legislation governing education in Ontario, being amended to include the Separate Schools Clause. This allowed for the establishment of separate schools for Black people. Racial segregation in education was reinforced and upheld by Ontario’s provincial court system. Once racially segregated schools were established, the courts upheld the practice. Black children were refused admission to white schools when Black parents sued common school trustees.
The same practices were put into place in Nova Scotia in 1865. In response to the activism of Black parents, racially segregated schools in Ontario were eventually phased out. The last racially segregated school in Ontario, School Section No.11, closed in 1965 in Colchester, after newly elected 𝗠𝗣𝗣 𝗟𝗲𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗕𝗿𝗮𝗶𝘁𝗵𝘄𝗮𝗶𝘁𝗲, put forth a motion for the Separate Schools clause on segregated schools for Blacks to be officially removed from provincial education policy. The last racially segregated school in Nova Scotia closed in 1983 in Guysborough County.
Harry Winston Jerome was born on September 30, 1940 in Prince Albert, Sask., and moved with his family to British Columbia and the Vancouver area in 1951 where white residents attempted to stop the sale of the home as they were the only Black family to move there.
He was a talented athlete who excelled in a variety of sports, including baseball and football. But exceptional speed was his trademark and special gift, propelling him not only to success on the gridiron and baseball diamond, but also to the pinnacle of international athletics competition as one of the top sprinters of the day and one of the best to ever represent Canada.
On November 8, 1946, Viola Desmond was convicted and fined for defrauding the government for sitting in the wrong place at the Roseland Theatre and refusing to move, in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Although she offered to pay the difference between the upstairs and downstairs tickets, she was still arrested and detained.
Ms. Desmond’s stand against racism and injustice has made her a symbol of heroism in the fight against inequality. What is not well known, however, is that she started two civil actions for personal injury damages following her fateful incident at the Roseland Theatre. Although her civil actions faded into the backdrop of history, they show that Ms. Desmond’s dignity was not the only thing affected by her forceful ejection and discrimination by the Roseland Theatre.
Often seen as the “Rosa Parks” of Canada, Viola Desmond will always be a Black Canadian Hero.
In September 1851, hundreds gathered at Toronto's St. Lawrence Hall for the North American Convention of Coloured Freemen, a three-day event focusing on the fight against slavery in the United States and how to assist Black people fleeing into Ontario, then known as Canada West. The convention came in response to the Fugitive Slave Act (also known as the Fugitive Slave Law), which the United States Congress had passed on September 18, 1850.
Various committees reported on efforts being made to assist refugees and on the development of Black communities in Canada West, including the recently established Elgin Settlement (which became North and South Buxton).
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.
The colony of New France, founded in the early 1600s, was the first major settlement in what is now Canada. Slavery was a common practice in the territory. When New France was conquered by the British in 1759, records revealed that approximately 3,600 enslaved people had lived in the settlement since its beginnings.
The Code Noir was a decree originally passed by France's King Louis XIV in 1685. The Code Noir defined the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire, restricted the activities of free Black people, made Roman Catholicism compulsory. The code has been described by Tyler Stovall as "one of the most extensive official documents on race, slavery, and freedom ever drawn up in Europe".
Portia May White, contralto, teacher, born 24 June 1911 in Truro, NS. Portia White was the first Black Canadian concert singer to win international acclaim. She was considered one of the best classical singers of the 20th century. Her voice was described by one critic as “a gift from heaven.” She was often compared to the celebrated African American contralto Marian Anderson. The Nova Scotia Talent Trust was established in 1944 specifically to enable White to concentrate on her professional career. She was named a “person of national historic significance” by the Government of Canada in 1995.
Black Canadians are making history every single day. While its important to look to our past its also extremely important to look at what’s happening around us right now.
So im happy to share some of the faces of people making history right now that have inspired me and so many others.
Former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes is a Canadian politician who served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the riding of Whitby in the House of Commons of Canada from 2015 to 2019. Elected as a Liberal in the 2015 federal election. As a member of the Liberal caucus, she was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister in December 2015 and served in that role until January 26, 2017, when she became Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development. In 2019 MP Celina stood in solidarity with Jody Wilson-Raybould.
MLA Uzoma Asagwara, alongside Jamie Moses and Audrey Gordon, is one of the first three Black Canadian MLAs elected in Manitoba. They are also the first Queer black person to win a seat and Manitoba's first gender non-conforming MLA.
MPP Dr. Jill Andrew is a was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 2018 provincial election. She represents the electoral district of Toronto—St. Paul's as a member of the Ontario New Democratic Party. She is the Ontario NDP Culture & Women's Issues Critic and is part of Ontario's first ever Black Caucus. She is also the 1st queer Black person to be elected to the Ontario Legislature and across Canada!
Elijah McCoy, engineer, inventor born 2 May 1843 or 1844 in Colchester, Ontario. McCoy was an African-Canadian mechanical engineer and inventor best known for his groundbreaking innovations in industrial lubrication.
McCoy had difficulty finding a job upon his return to Canada and instead found work in Ypsilanti, Michigan, as a fireman for the Michigan Central Railroad. At the time locomotives had to stop frequently as firemen such as McCoy tended to the engine, squirting oil onto its axles, gears, and levers.
After six years on the job, McCoy developed a device commonly known as an “oil-drip cup,” which administered a regulated amount of lubricant into the engine through a spigot.
Elijah McCoy would go on to invent many more things such as a foldable ironing board and a sprinkler. Cementing himself as Black Hero and Innovator in not only Black Canadian History but Black History, period.
Established in 1867, the the Pullman porter position was created by Pullman Palace Car Company. George Pullman, the company owner, designed the Pullman sleeping car to provide luxury overnight travel service in the United States. Pullman hired Black men to work as porters because they were a source of cheap and abundant labour. By the beginning of the 1900s, Canadian railway companies adopted the practice of using Black porters when the Pullman service expanded into Canada. At this time, railway companies were the largest employers of Black Canadian men in the country.
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. Over the decades, Black porters unionized and became a powerful advocacy group. For instance, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was known as the “friend of the sleeping car porters,” he said, and the Bill of Rights was partly brought about by the group’s advocacy for fair employment and housing, among other rights.
Their advocacy helped change Canada into a multicultural country.
Black History Month came to an end yesterday. This journey with you all has been amazing. While I created videos to teach others I was also learning.
I chose to post this video today vs yesterday because I wanted to highlight 𝗕𝗟𝗔𝗖𝗞 𝗙𝗨𝗧𝗨𝗥𝗘𝗦. Black people are not limited to a single month. We are continuously growing and thriving. So here's to celebrating 𝗕𝗟𝗔𝗖𝗞 𝗙𝗨𝗧𝗨𝗥𝗘𝗦. Madeline 𝟭𝟮, AJ 𝟭𝟯, Malaya 𝟭𝟬, and Juelz 𝟭𝟭, are 𝗔𝗟𝗟 𝗙𝗨𝗧𝗨𝗥𝗘 𝗕𝗟𝗔𝗖𝗞 𝗖𝗔𝗡𝗔𝗗𝗜𝗔𝗡 𝗛𝗘𝗥𝗢𝗦!