This month we are celebrating the many achievements and contributions made by Black Canadians who have helped shape Canada into the culturally diverse and compassionate place it is today. Often overlooked is the fact the Black Canadians were enslaved here too. Black History Month is an opportunity for the majority of Canadians to learn about the experiences of Black Canadians in our society and the vital role this community has played throughout our shared history.
Meet Viola Desmond by Elizabeth MacLeod
Learn the history behind the face on the $10 bill. Viola persevered and rallied community support to fight for her right to freedom from discrimination in the 1940s.
Talking about freedom: Celebrating Emancipation Day in Canada by Natasha L. Henry
Enslaved Africans were declared free in British Colonies, including Canada, on August 1st 1834. This book discusses the importance of that day and the role it still plays in Canadian celebrations today.
Meet Willie O'Ree by Elizabeth MacLeod
Did you know the first Black Hockey player was Canadian? Willie faced racism, bigotry and name-calling with great positivity ultimately earning himself a spot as a Hockey Hall of Famer!
The Children of Africaville by Christine Welldon
Explore Nova Scotia’s Black History through the eyes of the children who inhabited Africaville before it was torn down and relocated.
The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole
Racism exists in Canada too. Cole’s experiences will shift your perspective and spark conversations about racial practices in Canada and beyond.
The Hanging of Angélique by Afua Cooper
Canadian historian Afua Cooper tells the story of Marie-Joseph Angélique, a slave woman convicted of starting a fire that destroyed a large part of Montreal in the 1700s. The work challenges the idea of a slavery-free Canada by way of documenting cases of legally and culturally endorsed slavery in the country.
Canadian novelist Cecil Foster chronicles the story of the “Pullmen” of the Canadian rail lines, and their fight for social justice. He documents how the tiring, thankless and low-paying job - that consisted of hauling luggage, folding down beds, shining shoes, and serving passengers - forced these men to be separated from their families as they travelled the country.
Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard
Canadian author Robyn Maynard traces the underreported modern and historical realities of anti-Blackness within a Canadian context. She examines the fact that slavery occurred in Canada for more than 200 years and that enslaved Indigenous and Black individuals were responsible for developing infrastructure for white Canadian settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries -- and how that legacy has defined institutionalized racism today.
Brother by David Chariandy
In this novel, Canadian author and teacher David Chariandy probes the ramifications of police violence on marginalized communities. He delivers a nuanced portrait of a family struggling to stay afloat as circumstances stack against them.
The Motorcyclist by George Elliott Clarke
Celebrated Canadian author George Elliott Clarke vividly recounts the travels and romantic exploits of Carl Black, an intellectual and artist, a traveller, a reader and unapologetic womanizer over the course of one dramatic year in Nova Scotia. This unflinching work of fiction shows how the character yearns for the bohemian life, but is trapped in a railway porter’s prosaic - at times humiliating - existence.
Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta
Writer to watch, Zalika Reid-Benta, offers a short story collection that follows Kara Davis through elementary school to her high school graduation, as she comes of age while being perennially caught between her Canadian nationality and Jamaican heritage. Over a series of 12 stories, Davis visits her great aunt in Jamaica, endures a cruel prank by close friends, and deals with her stubborn grandparents.
Shut Up, You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji
Canadian writer Téa Mutonji wanted her first short story collection to challenge what diverse literature is supposed to be about. It tells the stories of young women coming of age in the 21st century. Mutonji’s characters include a young woman who shaves her head in an abortion clinic waiting room, a mother and daughter who bond over fish, and a teenager seeking happiness with her pack of cigarettes.
Learn more about Black History Month in Canada.