Black History in Canada

2 BLACK HISTORY CANADA IN Note on language Message to Teachers The story of African-descended peoples in Canada is a rich and complex one dating back more than 400 years. The breadth of experiences, narratives, and identities of Black Canadians — from Mathieu da Costa, an interpreter for Samuel de Champlain and the first documented free Black person to set foot on what is now known as Canada in the early 1600s, to the current population of more than 1.5 million people — has been instrumental in shaping the country we know today. The historical presence of Black people in Canada was characterized by colonial settlers oppressing and enslaving people of African descent in this country, but the whole story — which includes buying and enslaving people of African descent, forced migrations, and the exploitation of their labour — is not widely known or discussed in this country’s dominant historical narrative. Instead, Canada’s participation in enslavement is often erased from history books in favour of a narrative that centres white voices, silences those of Black Canadians, and emphasizes Canada as a “haven” for its role in the Underground Railroad. This is not only an injustice to those who suffered, but prevents Canadians from understanding the complex histories and lived experiences of the country’s many Black populations. It is also a history of how Black people in Canada have surmounted barriers and have prospered despite the ongoing struggle against oppression and discrimination. The term Black as a reference to people of African descent has historically been rooted in ideologies of race and racism, but has shifted to reflect identity, resistance, and the shared historical experiences of the African diaspora. Enslaved person is used instead of “slave” to show the humanity of those who were in bondage, as is “enslavement” in place of “slavery.” Similarly, “enslaver” is used instead of “slave owner,” unless in direct reference to historical documents. The word “Negro” was historically used to describe Black people and may appear in this guide in references to historical organizations or documents like censuses but is not an acceptable term for use today. The term Canada is used in this guide to indicate the traditional Indigenous lands and former French and British colonies we now refer to as Canada. This guide uses primarily contemporary language to refer to Canada and its provinces and cities. Ontario and Quebec are used interchangeably with Upper and Lower Canada, as well as Canada East and Canada West. Teachers may want to use the terminology of the time for their students. The African Diaspora describes the many communities of people of African descent living outside of Africa, many of whom were scattered throughout the world as a result of historic movements such as the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The Transatlantic Slave Trade/Triangular Trade brought more than 12 million enslaved African people, crops, and goods between Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas, and Europe from the late 16th to early 19th centuries. The teaching of Black history in Canada is an integral part of history education. By learning about and confronting the past, Canadians can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the long, rich history of people of African descent in this country and can begin to address ever-present anti-Black racism. Many of these experiences are shared, or overlap with those of other demographics, and though this guide does not delve into those stories or interconnected narratives, we encourage readers to conduct further independent research on those topics. The Black History in Canada Education Guide should be used as a starting point for further research and learning. Teachers are encouraged to further their research and complement the lesson plans contained in this guide through primary source analysis and by engaging with other resources that explore the lived experiences of Black Canadians, historically and in the present day. Canada is a vast country and the legal, cultural, social, and demographic histories of one province do not reflect all - for centuries Canada was composed of colonies and territories that were governed differently. Historica Canada is the country’s largest organization dedicated to enhancing awareness of Canada’s history and citizenship. The Black History in Canada Education Guide is designed to enhance students’ awareness of and appreciation for the Black Canadian experience. It explores various aspects of the country’s Black history, including enslavement, migration and settlement, anti-Black racism, the Civil Rights Movement, and Black Canadian achievement and present-day experiences. The Black History in Canada Education Guide asks students to examine issues of identity, equality, equity, community, justice, and nation-building in historical and contemporary contexts. This guide is aligned with current Canadian curricula, and has been produced for use in middle and high school history and social studies classrooms. Black history in Canada is a living history. The legacies of enslavement and racism continue to affect Black communities throughout the country, particularly in the form of individual and institutionalized anti-Black discrimination. The topics in this guide should be broached critically and with compassion. Teachers must be sensitive to both individual and group dynamics to ensure the classroom remains a safe environment for all learners. The classroom climate should encourage students to relate to one another in positive, respectful, and supportive ways, and students should be informed on where they can go for help. Establish ground rules for respectful and inclusive discussions, and consult your school support systems for additional support, if needed. This guide was developed in collaboration and consultation with Channon Oyeniran (PhD Candidate), Dr. Natasha Henry, Dr. Dorothy Williams, and Dr. Karolyn Smardz Frost. Additional resources related to Black history in Canada are available on The Canadian Encyclopedia. For more information, visit Stamp with Mathieu da Costa (Andrew Perro and Ron Dollekamp, Canada Post, 2017) Teachers are encouraged to take this opportunity to engage in a broader conversation with their students about the concepts and language around race and racism. Pay attention to grammar, including the use of tenses, articles, and capitalization. When it is appropriate, please discuss the historical language connected to the time frame you are exploring.