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|In my series of reading lists to consider for Black History Month, I have included books from a variety of places. That said, I fully realise that the lists are very American heavy. As it is also Black History Month here in Canada, I would like to provide readers with some Canadian specific options. Whether you are Canadian, or just interested in Black history in Canada, I hope you find something to read from this list of fourteen Canadian history books.
To Stand and Fight Together: Richard Pierpoint and the Coloured Corps of Upper Canada by Steve Pitt
Richard Pierpoint was a black man who helped create a unit of black men during the War of 1812, and actually served in an active combat role. They also served during the Rebellion of 1837, and served as a police force.
The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal by Afua Cooper
Marie-Joseph Angélique was a black slave in Montreal in the 18th century. In 1734, Montreal burned, and 46 buildings were destroyed. Marie-Joseph Angélique was charged with arson, and although she maintained her innocence, they tortured a confession out of her, and she was hanged.
Viola Desmond's Canada: A History of Blacks and Racial Segregation in the Promised Land by Graham Reynolds with Wanda Robson
Viola Desmond is often referred to as "the Rosa Parks of Canada." She sat in the whites only section of a segregated movie theatre in 1946, and was arrested. Not only does this tell the story of Viola Desmond (with the help of her youngest sister Wanda Robson), it also tells the little known history of segregation laws in Canada.
Execution Poems: The Black Acadian Tragedy of "George and Rue" by George Elliott Clarke
Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry, Execution Poems tells the story of George and Rufus Hamilton, two black men who were hanged in 1949 for murder. It tells of poverty and racism, and the poetic narrative is shared by a cousin of the two men who were hanged.
Razing Africville: A Geography of Racism by Jennifer Nelson
Africville was an historic black neighbourhood in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The city evicted all of those living in the impoverished community, and razed the entire neighbourhood under the guise of "slum clearance."
From Midnight to Dawn: The Last Tracks of the Underground Railroad by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Hettie Jones
Like many other books, this one addresses the story of the Underground Railroad, the path to freedom for runaway slaves. Unlike many other books, this one also addresses what happened to the fugitive slaves upon their arrival in Canada. We may see the stories of lesser known abolitionists, and the stories of black communities that were formed as a result, such as the town of Dawn.
North of the Color Line: Migration and Black Resistance in Canada, 1870-1955 by Sarah-Jane Mathieu
Following the Civil War in America, many black men and women came to Canada. North of the Color Line looks at politics, labour, laws, racism, and segregation in Canada, often with a focus on the sleeping car porters on trains, almost always a job held by black men
Queer Returns: Essays on Multiculturalism, Diaspora and Black Studies by Rinaldo Walcott
Rinaldo Walcott uses this essay collection to talk about how multiculturalism and diaspora effect personal cultures, and one's own identity. Walcott also addresses how areas like queer, black, and black queer can complicate these politics.
In the Black: My Life by B. Denham Jolly
B. Denham Jolly's autobiography tells the story of how he came to Canada in the 1950s, and ultimately had success in his business dealings, despite facing many forms of discrimination. The discrimination he faced led him to a battle to obtain a license for a black-owned radio station in Toronto, Canada's first black-owned radio station, which he successfully opened in 2001, and used to promote black musicians in Canada.
Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present by Robyn Maynard
Despite Canada's image of tolerance, racism has been a prevalent issue from the time of slavery, and persists today. The same type of state violence against black lives that exists in the States is also present in Canada. Policing Black Lives addresses the different forms of institutional racism in Canada, such as racial profiling, police violence, incarceration, black poverty, and much more.
Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century by Jane Rhodes
Mary Ann Shadd was the first black woman in Canada to edit and publish a newspaper, published in the 1850s and known as the Provincial Freeman. She used her education and freedom to fight for the end of slavery, the end of racial discrimination, women's rights, and many other issues. When she returned to the US, she also recruited black soldiers to the Union Army and taught freed slaves.
The Queen's Bush Settlement: Black Pioneers, 1839-1865 by Linda Brown-Kubisch
The Queen's Bush settlement refers to an area near present day Hawkesville. At the time the land had been as yet unsurveyed, but a group of black pioneers cleared and settled the land, forming the remote Queen's Bush settlement. The settlement became a significant area for fugitive slaves to settle.
Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex and Security in Sixties Montreal by David Austin
Black power had significant, although brief, moments in the spotlight in 1960s Montreal. The Congress of Black Writers at McGill University brought together many significant black thinkers of the time, from Canada, Africa, America, and the Caribbean. Sir George Williams University served as the site of a major black-led protest. These events, highly publicised in their time, led to a great deal of public concern about Montreal becoming a world leader in radical politics.
Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy: The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander: A Memoir by Lincoln Alexander and Herb Shoveller
Lincoln Alexander was born in 1920s Toronto to a railway porter and a maid. He fought for education, against racism, and had successful careers in law and politics. He became Canada's first black member of Parliament, the first black federal Cabinet Minister, the first black Chair of the Worker's Compensation Board, and served as the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario.
Previous posts in the series are:
"A Black History Month Reading List: Introduction"
"Black History Month Reading List: Poetry"
"Black History Month Reading List: Children's Books"
"Black History Month Read List: Middle Grade Books"
"Black History Month Read List: YA Books"