Search for "Black Canadians"

Displaying 21-40 of 164 results
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John Ware

John Ware, cowboy, rancher (born c. 1845–50 in the United States; died 11 September 1905 near Brooks, AB). John Ware is legendary in the history of Alberta for his strength and horsemanship. Born enslaved, he became a successful rancher who settled near Calgary and Brooks. He was widely admired as one of the best cowboys in the West, even at a time of widespread anti-Black racism and discrimination.

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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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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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Alphonso Davies

Alphonso Boyle Davies, soccer player (born 2 November 2000 in Buduburam, Ghana). Alphonso Davies is one of the world’s most promising young soccer stars. The youngest player ever on Team Canada, he was named the Canadian Men’s Player of the Year in 2018 and 2020. After being named an MLS All-Star and the Player of the Year with Vancouver Whitecaps FC in 2018, he signed a six-year contract with FC Bayern Munich of the Bundesliga in 2019. He was named the Bundesliga Rookie of the Season in 2019–20 and became the first Canadian men’s international to play on a team that won the Champions League. In 2020, he received the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s top male athlete and was a co-winner, with football player Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, of the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year.

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Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary, educator, publisher, abolitionist (born 9 October 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware; died 5 June 1893 in Washington, DC). Mary Ann Shadd was the first Black female newspaper publisher in Canada. Shadd founded and edited The Provincial Freeman. She also established a racially integrated school for Black refugees in Windsor, Canada West. She played an important role in giving Black people a voice and advocating for women’s rights. In 1994, Shadd was designated a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada.

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Dominique Gaspard

Dominique François Gaspard, physician and community builder (born 22 December 1884 in New Orleans, Louisiana; died 6 February 1938 in Montreal, QC). Gaspard was a respected doctor and a trailblazer in Montreal’s Black district. After serving with distinction at a field hospital during the First World War, he devoted himself to medical practice in Montreal. He also worked to create social and intellectual outlets for Black men in the city. A bilingual Catholic, he was unique in the city’s early-20th-century anglophone  Protestant Black community. His story speaks of a complexity of language, ethnicity and migration not often explored in narratives of Quebec’s English-speaking and Black communities.

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Black Canadians

Black people have lived in Canada since the beginnings of transatlantic settlement. Although historically very few have arrived directly from their ancestral homeland in the continent of Africa, the term "African Canadian" became increasingly popular in the 1990s to identify all descendants of Africa regardless of their place of birth.

For more detailed articles on the history of Black Canadians, please see our articles on Black History in Canada until 1900 and Black History in Canada: 1960 to Present.

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Black History Month in Canada

Black History Month is observed across Canada every February. Black History Month in Canada provides an opportunity to share and learn about the experiences, contributions and achievements of peoples of African ancestry (see Black Canadians). It was initiated in Canada by the Ontario Black History Society and introduced to Parliament in December 1995 by Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected as a member of Parliament. Black History Month was officially observed across Canada for the first time in February 1996 (see also Black History in Canada).

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Ray Lewis

Raymond Gray (“Rapid Ray”) Lewis, CM, sprinter (born 8 October 1910 in Hamilton, ON; died 14 November 2003 in Hamilton, ON). Ray Lewis was the first Canadian-born Black athlete to earn an Olympic medal. He won a bronze medal in the 4 x 400 m relay at the 1932 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles. He was also part of the Canadian team that won the silver medal in the 4 x 400 m event at the 1934 British Empire Games in London, England. Lewis was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2000.

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Annamie Paul

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada 2020–present, lawyer, activist (born 3 November 1972 in Toronto ON). Annamie Paul has worked as an advisor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and with various international organizations devoted to preserving human rights and fighting climate change. In 2020, she became the first Black Canadian and the first Jewish woman to serve as leader of a major federal political party in Canada when she was elected as the leader of the Green Party of Canada.

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Joseph Lewis

Joseph Lewis, alias Levi Johnston, also Lewes and Louis, fur trader (born c. 1772–73 in Manchester, New Hampshire; died 1820 in Saskatchewan District). Joseph Lewis was a Black fur trader, originally from the United States, who participated in the fur industry’s early expansion into the Canadian Northwest in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He is one of very few Black people involved in the fur trade whose name was documented in existing texts. Joseph Lewis is further notable for being the first Black person in present-day Saskatchewan, as well as, in all likelihood, Alberta.

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Black Fur Traders in Canada

The role of Black people within the history of the fur trade is rarely considered. Black people were rarely in a position to write their own stories, so often those stories went untold. This owes to a complex set of factors including racism and limited access to literacy. Black people are also not the focus of many historical documents. However, historians have identified several Black fur traders working in different roles, and even an entire family of Black fur traders who left their mark on history.

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Félix Auger-Aliassime

Félix Auger-Aliassime, tennis player (born 8 August 2000 in Montreal, QC). Félix Auger-Aliassime is one of the world’s rising tennis stars. In 2015, he became the youngest player ever to win a professional match and the youngest player ever to reach the Top 800 in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings. In 2015, he and Denis Shapovalov won Canada’s first Junior Davis Cup title, as well as the junior boys doubles title at the US Open. By the age of 20, Auger-Aliassime had reached the final of five ATP Tour events. During the 2019 ATP Tour season, he rose 91 places in the world rankings, from No. 108 to No. 17.

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George Godfrey

George Godfrey, boxer (born 20 March 1853 in Charlottetown, PEI; died 18 October 1901 in Revere, Massachusetts). George Godfrey was a successful Black Canadian boxer who began his career at the age of 26. He won the World Colored Heavyweight championship in 1883 and held the title for five years. Godfrey retired in 1896 after competing in over 100 fights. He was the first of many great Black Canadian boxers from the Maritimes; others included George Dixon and Sam Langford. Godfrey was inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

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Portia White

Portia May White, contralto, teacher (born 24 June 1911 in Truro, NS; died 13 February 1968 in Toronto, ON). 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.

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Salome Bey

Salome Bey, singer, actress, songwriter (born 1939 in Newark, New Jersey; died 8 August 2020 in Toronto, ON). Salome Bey was an award-winning jazz, blues and R&B singer. Known as “Canada’s First Lady of the Blues,” she often appeared with her daughters Jacintha Tuku and Saidah Baba Talibah, who accompanied her as the Relatives. Bey wrote and starred in Indigo, a Dora Award-winning history of the blues, and was part of the all-star lineup of Canadian singers who produced the charity single “Tears Are not Enough,” Bey received a Toronto Arts Award and the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for lifetime achievement from the Black Theatre Workshop of Montreal. She was inducted as an honorary member of the Order of Canada.

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Jackie Shane

Jackie Shane, singer (born 15 May 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee; died 22 February 2019 in Nashville). Jackie Shane was a pioneering transgender performer who was a prominent figure in Toronto’s R&B scene in the 1960s. Her cover of William Bell’s “Any Other Way” reached No. 2 on the CHUM singles chart in 1963. Her 1967 live album, Jackie Shane Live, was reissued in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize’s 1960–1970 Heritage Award. Any Other Way, an anthology album of songs from Shane’s career and monologues from her live shows, was released in 2017. It was nominated for a 2019 Grammy Award for Best Historical Album. Shane is featured in a mural on the side of a building in downtown Toronto commemorating the Yonge Street music scene of the 1960s.