The roots of Black History Month in Canada stretch back more than forty years. In 1978, the Ontario Black History Society was founded, and the following year, its founders, Dr. Daniel G. Hill and Wilson O. Brooks, successfully petitioned the City of Toronto to have February proclaimed as Black History Month.
Since then, the movement to recognize the month has grown, culminating in February 2008, when Senator Donald Oliver, the first Black man appointed to the Senate, introduced the Motion to Recognize Contributions of Black Canadians and February as Black History Month. It was adopted on March 4, 2008.
From the contributions of Black Loyalists in the War of 1812 to the fight against slavery and its legacies to the modern movements to defund the police and end the prosecution of Black communities, Black Canadians have shaped the country and its national identity since Confederation.
There are many ways to honour these contributions during Black History Month.
Black Lives Matter Canada fights for justice and liberation for Black communities across Canada. Their website includes links to local chapters of Black Lives Matter from coast to coast, including Goose Lane’s local chapter, BLM Fredericton. BLM New Brunswick has programs and support for all of New Brunswick, including a list of Black Owned Businesses that you can support. Visit the BLM’s national website or your local BLM website to donate, stay informed, and find local resources.
The Harriet Tubman Institute at York University regularly hosts writers and researchers to discuss the experience of African and people of African descent in Canada. They recently hosted Andrew Hunter, author of It Was Dark There All the Time, to discuss Sophia Burthen’s account of arriving in what is now Canada as an enslaved person, the role that the slave trade played in pre-Confederation Canada, and how its legacy continues to haunt contemporary Canada. Tubman Talks are held on Zoom, making them accessible nationwide, and many are recorded and uploaded to the Tubman Institute’s YouTube channel.
For those who are further afield, check out the Government of Canada’s website, which includes a list of Black history organizations and educational resources, including the British Columbia Black History Awareness Society, the New Brunswick Black History Society, and The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia.
Books and Events
In addition to his Tubman Talk, It Was Dark There All the Time author Andrew Hunter will be discussing the book at three events this month with the Toronto Public Library. More details are available here.
On March 7, Goose Lane will be publishing Pulitzer-Prize winner Paul Harding's This Other Eden in Canada. Based on the true story of Malaga Island, an isolated island off the coast of Maine that became one of America’s first racially integrated communities, Harding’s powerful novel reimagines the history of a small mixed-race community’s devastating eviction from their homes.
Visit our Black History Month Collection for more information on these and other titles highlighting Black narratives.