Black History Month
Black History in Canada
Since the arrival of Mathieu Da Costa, a navigator and interpreter, in the early 1600s, people of African descent have been a part of shaping Canada’s heritage and identity.
But the role of Black Canadians in history has not always been featured in Canadian history. In fact, there is little mention of the many sacrifices made in wartime by Black Canadian soldiers as far back as the War of 1812.
Many Canadians do not know that African people were once enslaved in Canada and it was their fight to end that enslavement which laid the foundation of Canada’s diverse and inclusive society.
Black History Month is a time to remember and celebrate the many achievements and contributions of black Canadians throughout history. Throughout February, this celebration provides a chance to learn about African cultures which have helped to create the culturally diverse nation we live in today.
Recognizing Black History Month
The idea to commemorate Black History Month dates back to 1926 in the United States. Harvard-educated African American historian Carter G. Woodson proposed setting aside a time devoted to honouring the accomplishments of African Americans.
This led to the establishment of Negro History Week in 1926, and celebrating Black History began in Canada shortly thereafter.
In December 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month following a motion introduced by the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine.
In February 2008, 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 received unanimous approval and was adopted on March 4, 2008. The adoption of this motion completed Canada’s parliamentary position on Black History Month.
There are many organizations and educational resources devoted to the promotion and awareness of Black Canadian history. During Black History Month, many events take place across the country including concerts, performances, and activities.
And, all year long you can visit specific places to learn more about African history, culture, and the contributions that black Canadians have made to Canada:
Below are some of the organizations in Ontario and some other resources.
The Amherstburg Freedom Museum is a community-based, non-profit museum that tells the story of African-Canadians’ journey and contributions, by preserving and presenting artifacts that educate and inspire.
Black History Ottawa is a registered Canadian charity with a mandate to advance education by increasing the public’s knowledge and appreciation of, and by carrying out research in, the history, culture, traditions and achievements of Canadians of African descent.
Founded on the original site of the Elgin Settlement that served on the Underground Railroad for Blacks fleeing oppression, Buxton National Historic Site & Museum’s main purpose is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret historical artifacts related to the Elgin Settlement.
The Ontario Black History Society is a non-profit registered Canadian charity dedicated to the study, preservation and promotion of Black history and heritage.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site sits on part of the original property purchased in 1841 by abolitionist Josiah Henson and his supporters to establish a refuge for the many fugitives from slavery in the United States. It consists of an interpretive centre, three historic buildings, two cemeteries and numerous artifacts that have been preserved as a legacy to these early pioneers.
Explore an important chapter of Ontario’s history through visits to the many Black heritage sites and museums across the province.
Read about key events in black history at these links: