Black’s in Canada’s History

The small selection of works in this section is written about Blacks in Canada as a whole, and have been included to help provide a total picture, both historically and geographically, of the experience of Blacks in Canada.  At the present time, as in the past, the majority of Blacks live in Eastern Canada, especially in what are now urban centres in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.  For this reason much of the material presented in this section is concerned with Eastern Canada, while British Columbia and the Prairies receive less mention.  Despite these limitations in respect to B.C. content, it is hoped that these writings will help to create a context within which the experience of Blacks in B.C. can be examined.



Bartolo, Oswald.  The History of Blacks in Canada, 1608 to now. A Key to Canada: Part II. Montreal: The National Black Coalition of Canada Inc., 1976.  (VBPS)

Bartolo’s article provides a general overview of the experience of Blacks in Canada from 1608 to the mid-1970’s.  Some of the topics included in his examination are: slavery in Canada, the Loyalists, the exodus to Africa, fugitive slave settlements in Eastern Canada, the Black Press, Black churches, education of Blacks and Canadian Black unity.  The early experience of Black pioneers in British Columbia are briefly outlined.

Bertley, Leo. Black Tiles in the Mosaic. Copyright Leo Bertley, 1974.  (PA)

Each day of this 1975 calendar has a write-up about a Black person or an event pertaining to Blacks.  The bulk of the information concerns Canada but the calendar is international in scope including, for example, the date of Ghana’s independence and biographical data on Martin Luther King.  There are numerous references to people and events in British Columbia.  Each page is crammed with information.

Bertley, Leo. Canada and Its People of African Descent. Pierrefonds, P.Q.: Bilongo Publishers, 1977 (PA)

In text and pictures, Bertley presents the experiences and contributions of Blacks throughout Canada from 1606 when Matthew Da Costa, a black man, explored Eastern Canada with Champlain, until the present.  In a chapter entitled ‘The Pacific Coast (BC)’, the story of the Black pioneers is briefly summarized.  Contemporary B.C. Blacks mentioned include Emery Barnes, John Braithwaite, Rosemary Brown, Frank Collins, Harry Jerome and Roy Williams.

Black Tiles in the Mosaic.  Time.  February 28, 1969 pp. 10-11.  (VPL)

According to the author, after Blacks were involved in the destruction of the Sir George Williams computer centre in 1969, attitudes were polarized and the racism and discrimination which exists in ‘polite’, ‘tolerant’ Canadian society was made more evident.  The origins and estimated number of Blacks in Canada are discussed and significant events such as the Congress of Black Writers, the formation of the Nova Scotia’s Black United Front and the beginnings of the National Black Coalition are detailed.

Canada’s Negroes: An Untold Story. U.S. News and World Report.  May 11, 1970, pp. 46-48. (VPL)

This brief article notes the growing awareness on the part of both Blacks and whites of Canada’s own racial problems.  During the late 1960’s, influenced by events in the U.S. and increased West Indian immigration, Canada’s  “docile minority” is stirring.  The article focuses on the experiences of Blacks in the areas of housing, education and employment in Halifax, Windsor, Toronto and Montreal.

Davis, Morris & Krauter, Joseph.  The Negroes.  The Other Canadians.  Agincourt Ont.: Methuen Publications, 1971, pp. 40-55.  (PA, VPL)

In this very general article Black Canadians are discussed under the following categories: population, leadership, immigration policy, education, housing, employment and access to public services.  Most of the information pertains to Blacks in the East, but it does mention the case of Rodgers vs. Clarence Hotel in which the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the right of a beer parlour owner to refuse service to a Black person in 1939.

Erland, Anastasia. The New Blacks in Canada. Saturday Night. January. 1970 pp. 17-21.  (VPL)

Erland’s article deals with the increase in the Black population, especially in Toronto and Montreal, caused by recent immigration from the West Indies.  The socio-economic characteristics of this new group is described and the range of political ideologies amongst the Black population is delineated.  There are interviews with Olivia Grange Walker, editor of Contrast, a Black newspaper published in Toronto, Mervyn Procope, a Toronto elementary school teacher and poet; and Samuel Sikaneta, a medical student who intends to return to Zambia upon graduation.

Grescoe, Paul.  They Don’t Teach about Kanada’s Ku Klux Klan, Our Comie Indians or Our Slaves. Vancouver Sun Magazine. March 4, 1972.  (LL)

This is a report on some of the ‘controversial’ and ‘ugly’ parts left out of Canadian history textbooks. Two examples given are of particular relevance to Blacks.  First, the existence of the KKK in Canada in the 1920’s and 1930’s is mentioned.  The first Klavern was reported in Vancouver in 1924.  The second example is the often ‘overlooked’ fact that slavery existed in Canada.  King Louis XIV legalized slavery in New France (Quebec) in 1689 and it was not brought to a legal end until Britain abolished slavery in all the colonies in 1834.

Oliver, W.P. Negroes. Encyclopedia Canadiana.  Toronto Grolier of Canada Ltd., 1970, Volume 7, pp. 261-262.   (LL)

This very brief and general article on Blacks in Canada from the time of the American Revolutionary War to the mid 1960’s, was written by a Black Baptist minister in Nova Scotia.  He states, “Canada has no laws of segregation but there can now be no doubt that Negroes have suffered racial discrimination in employment and in access to educational opportunity.”

Potter, Harold.  Negroes in Canada.  In Richard Laskin (Ed.), Social Problems: A Canadian Profile.  Toronto: McGraw Hill Company of Canada Ltd., 1964. Pp. 139-147.  (LL, VPL)

The author reports on the population figures and distribution of Blacks in Canada prior to 1951.  The composition of the Black communities of Toronto and Montreal are categorized and some employment data on urban Blacks is presented.  He also mentions some of the Federal and Provincial legislation which has helped to reduce discrimination in employment and housing.

Tulloch, Headley.  Black Canadians: A Long Line of Fighters. Toronto: N.C. Press Ltd., 1975.  (VPL)

Tulloch provides a look at the rich African heritage of all Canadian Blacks in chapters dealing with the history and culture of Africa.  He analyzes the institution of slavery in general and its European excesses in particular.   The experience of Blacks in Canada is traced from their arrival here as slaves in the 1600s to the ‘Sir George Williams Affair’ and its aftermath in the 1970s.  Most of the material on Canada is concerned with the East but there is a brief biography of Roy Williams, a CPR porter who was transferred to Vancouver in 1960.

Winks, Robin. The Canadian Negro: The Negro in Canadian-American Relationship. Journal of Negro History, Volume LIII, October 1968. (UBC)

Winks states that Blacks have lived in Canada for nearly as long as they have lived in the United States and have experienced discrimination in both countries.  The pattern of discrimination in Canada does not differ to any great degree from that observed in the North United States.  In the author’s opinion, racial prejudice in Canada is due to American prejudice.

Winks, Robin. The Canadian Negro: The problem of Identity.  Journal of Negro History, Volume LIV, January 1969  (UV)

Winks discusses the problem of Canadian Black identity as affected by such factors as the lack of common ancestry, regional isolation across Canada, different times of immigration and the idea of cultural pluralism in Canadian society.

Winks, Robin. The Blacks in Canada.  Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1971.  (PA, VPL).

In this book, the author presents his description and analysis of many aspects of the life and experiences of Blacks across Canada from 1628 to 1970.  Some of the topics examined are: slavery, the Loyalists, the “Back to Africa” movements, the refugee Blacks, Black churches, Black schooling and the Black press.  In a chapter entitled “West of the Rockies”, Winks relates the story of the arrival, early experiences and contributions of the first Blacks in British Columbia.  The sources of information presented in the book are well documented.


Jain, S.K.  The Negro in Canada.  Regina Campus Library, 1967.  (LL)

This is a thirty page bibliography of primary and secondary sources of information about Blacks in Canada.  Although there are only three references related directly to B.C. Blacks, this bibliography provides an extensive list of materials available before 1967.

Potter, Harold & Hill Dan. Negro Settlement in Canada: A Survey 1628-1965. Reports and Studies of the Canada Commission on Bilingualism and Multiculturalism, April 1966.  (UBC)

Beginning with the interviews of three highly successful Black men, for example, Oscar Peterson, the authors examine the more average Black experience concentrating on Blacks in Nova Scotia, Ontario – especially Toronto and Windsor, and in Montreal.  There is a brief section on the Black pioneers of B.C., notably Mifflin Gibbs.