Canadian Black History Resources

Canadian Black History often goes unnoticed. But contributions of Black Canadians and immigrants to this country are immeasurable. Black History Month is our annual reminder that Black History is being made every day.

And while the pandemic has made it even harder for people to get out and explore some of the historic sites across the country there are plenty of virtual ways that you can visit some of these incredible spots.

Here are a few of the places I shared with viewers of Toronto’s Breakfast Television this week. Add them to your list of places to visit online (or off) in the year ahead.

Black History in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is an incredible source for Black History. Eastern Canada is where Caribbean people first landed and the options for learning are everywhere!

The Africville Virtual Museum
Africville was once a thriving African Nova Scotian community on the Halifax Harbour. In the 1960s buildings were destroyed and residents displaced to free up land  for Halifax’s industrial expansion. Today, the Africville Museum stands in a replica of the church that was the heart of the Africville community. If you visit in person you can look at the audiovisual kiosks, pictures, and artifacts that tell the community’s story.  It’s one of those places that you should absolutely get out to see, but thankfully you can start your exploration from home.

The virtual museum offers a collection of 360-degree tours of popular heritage and cultural sites curated by the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia.

Pier 21- The Canadian Immigration Museum

WWI No.2 All-Black Battalion

courtesy: Pier 21

This museum offers a glimpse into Canadian history for people of all backgrounds, but this month you can join the viewing of some incredible films from home. Ice Breakers   talks about the Black experience in Hockey and John Ware Reclaimed offers insights into one of Canada’s most renowned Cowboys.
Plus, History buffs will also want to tune in on Feb 26 when Pier 21 is hosting an online Library & Archives Canada Workshop on accessing the WWI records of the No 2 Construction Battalion – who were the largest Black unit in Canadian History.

Black History in Ontario

uncle tom's cabin

We really are lucky in this province. There are so many places where you can visit Black History from Niagara to Toronto to Windsor and more. But the virtual spot where you may want to start is at Uncle Tom’s Cabin
The Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site is owned and operated by the Ontario Heritage Trust. This two-hectare (five-acre) complex celebrates the life and work of Reverend Josiah Henson, whose autobiography inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe to write the anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
This year they are promising to “delve into stories about the experiences – the good and the bad – of Black Ontarians, past and present.”

Free programming will include live virtual tours of the museum on February 21, ( Booking is open and there are limited spots.)

There’s also a new “Discovering Dawn” educational video series exploring the successes of early Black communities in Dresden. The Dawn Settlement was a community of free Black people established in 1841 by Josiah Henson and fellow abolitionists. Located near what is now Dresden, it served as refuge for freedom seekers and a place where many came to share or learn skills, labour and resources to help them succeed in their new home. You can view the videos on YouTube or on the Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site Videos page.

Black History in Manitoba

In Winnipeg, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) has an online portal dedicated to Viola Desmond, who many of us have come to know about because she is now featured on our $10 bill. Ms Desmond was a hair salon owner in Nova Scotia who made history by speaking out against segregation and taking her case to the Supreme Court. The portal tells her story but you can also visit the museum through pre-recorded virtual tours. The Canadian Journey’s gallery tour includes Desmond’s exhibit and story.

Black History in British Columbia

You can learn all about BC’s Black pioneers from the comfort of your living room
The Digital Museums Canada – BC’s Black Pioneers: Their Industry and Character Influenced the Vision of Canada exhibit is accessible online. It tells the story of a group of about 800 educated and skilled Black men and women who, in 1858, left an  increasingly racist and divisive America, and headed to the Colony of British Columbia, at the invitation of its Governor, Sir James Douglas.

This is the often untold story of people who helped lay the foundation of a newly colonized Vancouver Island, while also contributing to Canada’s development and diversity.

Canadian Black History is Canadian History

And the more you look , the more you’ll find. The government of Canada has  Black History Canada resource page with plenty of information on organizations and educational resources across the country. And you can also check out the Canadian Encyclopedia. Ca / black history which has a timeline that will take you right back to Matthieu DaCosta who was the enslaved boy who was brought to Quebec in the 1600s and is  believed to be the first Black person in Canada

You can see today’s Breakfast Television appearance by clicking on the image below:

Heather Greenwood Davis on Breakfast Television

Do you have Canadian Black History sites that you love to visit? Add them in the comments. Let’s all learn from each other.


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