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February is Black History Month

February 1, 2012 at 6:10pm

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Black History Month

There are many prominent Black Canadians that make significant and lasting contributions to our country. Black History Month is a time to acknowledge and celebrate these individuals for their impact, not only to the Black community, but to all Canadians.

However, it is also a time to recall the countless struggles they have had to face. We admire many of these individuals because they were the first in their field. Lincoln Alexander was the first black Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister and Lieutenant Governor. He walked what was no doubt a difficult and lonely path, facing countless adversaries simply because of the colour of his skin.

Born in 1922 in Toronto, racism was a fact of life for Lincoln and many others, with few resources to combat prejudice. His father was a railway porter and his mother worked as a maid. During World War II he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. After being turned down for a salesman’s job because of his skin colour, Lincoln decided to enter law school and gained admission to Toronto’s Osgoode Hall School of Law, where he excelled. He practiced law for more than a decade before entering politics.

Lincoln broke down many barriers and served as a role model for visible minorities. He was active in Ontario’s multicultural movement and his contributions are still being felt today. He was considered a great champion of youth and education and the province of Ontario named a special awards program after him. He ended his celebrated career in politics in the early 1990s when he became Chancellor of the University of Guelph. In 1996, he served as the Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. He retired after 15 years with the University where Alexander Hall, an environmental teaching hub, was erected in his honour.

This year Lincoln celebrates his 90th birthday.