Canada History Week 2023

12 13 A Black People’s History of Canada (BPHC) is a project that empowers educators, learners, and all Canadians through ground-breaking research in African Canadian history, by creating resources for elementary and secondary school curricula. For Canada History Week 2023, we spoke to Dr. Afua Cooper, who is leading the project. As well as an advocate for Black history, Dr. Cooper is also considered one of the most influential and pioneering voices in the Canadian dub poetry and spoken word movement. She has taught Caribbean cultural studies, history, women’s studies, and Black studies at Toronto Metropolitan and York universities, at the University of Toronto, and now at Dalhousie University where she is a full professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dr. Cooper described the project as a “long time coming.” Its effectiveness is due to a carefully constructed complement of researchers, research assistants, administrative staff, and collaborators who conduct and support the research on Black history themes such as Black aesthetics, businesses, religion, sport, and education, in every province and territory in Canada. “I was amazed at the level of erasure of Black people and their vast contributions from official history,” she said. When asked why Canadians often have a misconstrued understanding of Black Canadian history, Dr. Cooper responded that Black history is not “braided through the curriculum.” As a result, very few know that Black history in Canada is over 400 years old and spans the entire country. One of Dr. Cooper’s own inspirations is the couple Henry and Mary Bibb, the founders of the Black press in Canada. The objective of this project is to conduct research on Black Canadian history across time and space and to write free curricular material for grades K-12, which would also be available to the public. BPHC believes education is key to moving forward: “Knowledge of Black history and the deployment of such knowledge has the potential to re-dignify and rehumanize the Black collective.” Learning about Black history from the perspective of Black Canadians is important because research has shown that students who learn about their history, heritage, and culture from this perspective, are more confident in themselves. One accomplishment of BPHC that Dr. Cooper believes people would be surprised to learn is the trail-blazing trajectory of success of opera singer Portia White who rose to fame in the 1940s. See A Black People’s History of Canada’s learning resources on Portia White to learn more about her life. Dr. Cooper has also been conducting research on Dr. Clement Ligoure for her just-released book on the Halifax Explosion, and BPHC’s work has made the research on him more robust. When asked how educators can include Black Canadian history in their everyday lessons, Dr. Cooper responded that Black history can be taught everywhere. In math, science, history, culture, and more. “There are multiple opportunities for educators to present Black history throughout the school year and not just during Black History Month.” Dr. Cooper concluded that “knowledge is power and can be put in the service of humanity,” and the knowledge of Black history has the potential for everyone to “re-humanize the Black collective.” André Boutin-Maloney, Bert Fox Community High School, Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan Pascal Bureau, Selwyn House School, Westmount, Québec Chantal Clabrough, Westmount High School, Westmount, Québec Erin Doupe, John F. Ross Collegiate Vocational Institute, Guelph, Ontario Leone Andrea Izzo, Oscar Peterson Public School, Stouffville, Ontario Annie Masson, École d’éducation internationale Filteau, Québec, Québec Craft at Risk Heritage NL St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador Adam Bunch, Toronto, Ontario Serpent River Resurgence: Confronting UraniumMining at Elliot Lake Lianne C. Leddy, Waterloo, Ontario Gathering: Indigenous Beadwork, Embroidery, and Quillwork Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library and Ross House Museum Winnipeg, Manitoba Mettre en lumière l’histoire des femmes Comité Mémoire des femmes de la Fédération Histoire Québec Montréal, Québec Administered by Canada’s History Administered by Canada’s History Administered by Canada’s History Administered by the Canadian Historical Association Administered by the Canadian Museums Association with the support of Ecclesiastical Insurance Teaching COMMUNITY PROGRAMMING POPULAR MEDIA SCHOLARLY RESEARCH MUSEUMS A N I N T E R V I E W W I T H D R . A F U A C O O P E R Governor General’s History Awards CANADA’S NATIONAL HISTORY SOCIETY is proud to introduce the recipients of the 2023 Governor General’s History Awards. The awards are an annual recognition of the achievements of individuals and organizations that make the past relevant, empowering, and accessible.