port of harlem magazine
Khismet Wearable Art, Millee Spears
Excerpt from: The Kids Book of Black History in Canada

Jun 13 – Jun 26, 2024
rosemary sadlier and wayne

What Is Black Canadian History?

Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world. The people of Canada represent many different backgrounds — Indigenous Peoples, Senegalese, Chinese, Jamaican, Scottish, Syrian, Italian, Nigerian, Ukrainian, Indian and hundreds more. Canadian history includes the stories of all these people.
But for a long time, history books focused only on white people from Great Britain and France. That’s probably because these countries were among the first to send settlers to Canada and keep records of their voyages. But Indigenous Peoples were already here when these Europeans arrived.

What about Black people? The first named African arrived in Canada about 400 years ago. Black Canadians — also called African Canadians — have changed Canada and made important contributions to its story. They have a fascinating history full of strong, courageous people.

Why Did Black People Come to Canada?

Black people have been in Canada since before it was called Canada. Some Black people arrived here as explorers. Some came as enslaved people, brought against their will by the people who enslaved them. Many came to escape slavery. Others were soldiers who helped Britain defend Canada against the French or Americans. Still more hoped to fulfill their dreams or find a place where they could live, raise their families and work or go to school.

African Roots

All Black people have African ancestors, whether their skin tone is light or dark. Some Black Canadians have parents, grandparents and more ancestors who were born in Canada, while others have come recently from Africa, Europe, South America, the United States, Bermuda, or Caribbean countries such as Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago.

Black Canadians in Canada

Who Are the Black Canadians?

The five main groups of Black Canadians are:

Most people in the first group originally came from the United States. But Black Canadians all share a common African heritage. Today, Black people’s experiences of life in Canada connect them.

Time to Tell the Story

For years, Canadians didn’t see Black Canadians in history books, on television or in newspapers — their stories weren’t told. Many people, Black or white, didn’t know about Black people’s important contributions to Canada. But Black Canadians have added to Canada’s story in many ways. From military heroes and journalists to cowboys and activists, Black Canadians have a proud history, present and future.
Toronto’s Rosemary Sadlier traces her Canadian roots to 1783. She is one of 18 people featured in the permanent exhibit “From These Shores” hanging in the Juffureh Slavery Museum in Juffureh, North Bank, The Gambia.

The Kids Book of Black History in Canada, text © 2024 Rosemary Sadlier; illustrations © 2024 Arden Taylor, published by Kids Can Press.

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