Black History in Canada

The contributions of African-Canadians in areas such as education, politics, business, religion and entertainment has enhanced our great Canadian cultural landscapes.

Here are just a few noteworthy African-Canadians personalities who changed Black History in Canada forever.

Josiah Henson
Henson was born a slave in Maryland, United States. As a young man Henson was told by his owner that he would be offered manumission (ownership of himself). He realized after time that his owner had no intention of giving him his freedom. Henson then escaped from his owner with his wife and family, settling near Dresden, Ontario.

With his leadership skills, he was supported by abolitionists who helped him create the Dawn Settlement. Henson believed that Blacks needed to learn skills within their own community. Later, his biography The Life of Josiah Henson Formerly a Slave Now an Inhabitant of Canada was written and sold to raise funds for the continuation of the Dawn Settlement.

It is also believed that Henson was the inspiration for the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s. And these are only some of the ways Josiah Henson contributed to Black History in Canada!
Jackie Robinson
Baseball was an all white sport for 100 years. That changed forever in 1946 when the Montreal Royals signed Jackie Robinson, the first professional Black baseball player in the major leagues. Thus Jackie Robinson contributed to Black History in Canada.

Robinson proved on the field and off that Black players were as deserving of the major leagues as anyone. He helped the Royals win the “Little World Series” in the single year he played for the team, after which he was promoted to the Brooklyn Dodgers. He retired from the game in 1957. Jackie Robinson died in 1972.
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson is regarded by many as the greatest jazz pianist that ever lived and had a profound influence on Canadian music. Peterson was born in Montreal of Caribbean parents in 1925. Oscar played trumpet at age five but switched to piano at eight after a battle with tuberculosis. He attended the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal.

Peterson was also a composer. His best-known compositions were his Canadiana Suite (1963), with jazz themes inspired by regions of Canada, and his Hymn to Freedom. He also composed music for the Ballets Jazz de Montréal and for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Peterson not only contributed to Canadian music, but also to Black History in Canada.
Lincoln Alexander
Lincoln Alexander became the first African-Canadian to serve in Cabinet following his 1979 appointment as Minister of Labour. He became the first Black lieutenant-governor of Ontario and thus is a part of Black History in Canada.
Jean Augustine
Jean Augustine was the first African-Canadian woman in Cabinet and was responsible, alongside the Ontario Black History Society, for having February declared Black History Month across Canada. Of course, this makes her a large contributor to Black History in Canada and helps to keep it a strong part of Canadian heritage.
Michaëlle Jean
Haitian-born Michaëlle Jean’s appointment as Canada’s Governor General announced in August 2005 provides Canada with its first Governor General of African origin. As the queen’s representative, the governor general is our head of state and the commander-in-chief of the Canadian Forces. This makes her a contributor to Black History in Canada.

Canadian History for Kids!