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Black History Month

This guide was originally created as a companion for a Library's display on Black History Month in 2008.


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Brenda Smith
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Mon-Fri: 9-5 (or by appointment)

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The original version of the Black History Month guide was created by Chuck Harris. 


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The Origin of Black History Month

February is recognized as Black History Month. During Black History Month, Canadians celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians.

While Black History Month originated in the United States (starting as Negro History Week in 1926 and later becoming Black History Month in 1976), Canada's House of Commons officially recognized Black History Month in December 1995. This motion was brought forward by the Hon. Jean Augustine, the first Black Canadian woman to be elected to Parliament. Black History Month was later recognized by the Senate in March 2008 following a motion by Sen. Donald Oliver, the first Black man to be appointed to Canada’s Senate. The adoption of Oliver's motion completed Canada’s parliamentary position on Black History Month.

Source: Government of Canada. About Black History Month

Canadian Black History Timeline

1605 – Mathieu Da Costa is believed to be the first Black person in Canada

1709 – Louis XIV authorizes slavery in New France

May 10, 1776 – Black Corporations formed: The British offer land, freedom and rights in exchange for service during the American Revolution, 1775-1783

July 26-27, 1784 – Canada’s first race-riot in Nova Scotia

1790 – The Imperial Statute allows settlers to bring slaves to Upper Canada

1790s – The Black Loyalists leave for Africa due to discrimination.

June 19, 1793 – Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe’s anti-slave trade bill passes

1807 – Britain abolishes the slave trade in the British Empire (Slave Trade Act)

1812-1815 – Black men volunteer to fight for the British during the War of 1812.

1815-1860 – The Underground Railroad brings tens of thousands of Black people to refuge in Canada

August 28, 1833 – British Parliament abolishes slavery (Slavery Abolition Act)

February 26, 1851 – Formation of the Canadian Anti-Slavery Society

November 16, 1857 – William Neilson Hall becomes the first black to win the Victoria Cross

1866 – Mifflin Gibbs becomes the first Black politician in Canada

July 5,1914 – A Canadian all-Black battalion is formed, the No. 2 Construction Battalion

1939-1945 – Black Canadians serve in the Second World War

March 14, 1944 – Ontario passes Racial Discrimination Act

November 8, 1946 – Black woman, Viola Desmond, arrested for sitting in theatre’s “White Section”

June 1, 1953: Canadian government passes the Fair Employment Practices Act giving Black Canadians equal access to employment for the first time.

September 25, 1963 – Leonard Braithwaite becomes the first Black person elected to a Canadian Parliament

October 1971 – Prime Minister Trudeau introduces Canada’s Multicultural Policy

1971 – African-Canadian sprinter, Harry Jerome, receives Order of Canada

August 6, 1995 – Donovan Bailey becomes “World’s Fastest Human”

November 1, 1995 - Honourable Justice Selwyn Romilly becomes first Black person  named to the BC Supreme Court

December 14, 1995: Government of Canada proclaims Black History Month.

September 27, 2005 – The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean becomes Canada’s first Black governor general

November 15, 2017– Donovan Bailey and Viola Desmond inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame 

November 19, 2018 – Viola Desmond $10 bill enters circulation

2020 – increased awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement

May 14, 2021 - Retired BC Supreme Court Justice Selwyn Romilly wrongfully detained by Vancouver police

January 21, 2022 - Canadian Black Heritage Stamp honours Eleanor Collins, Canada's "First Lady of Jazz"

July 9, 2022 - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers national apology to the descendants of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, CEF for the overt racism they endured


This timeline has been adapted from:

  1. Black History Canada. (2014). Black history timeline. Retrieved from
  2. Canadian Encyclopedia. (2021). Timeline: Black history. Retrieved from: 
  3. BC Black History Awareness Society. (n.d.). BC Black history timeline. Retrieved from:

Canadian Black History Photos

Victoria Pioneer Rifles, formed between 1860 - 1862, disbanded in 1863 - 1864.

Charles Gentile / Library and Archives Canada / C-022626

Slums of Africville (Halifax, Nova Scotia).

C.M.H.C./Library and Archives Canada/PA-170742

British Warfare in 1812, 1837-38.

Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1970-188-2011 W.H. Coverdale Collection of Canadiana

Citizenship and Immigration Canada - Proud of Our History


Creative Commons License
"Black History Month" by Brenda Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).

Based on a work at

Resources to Read, Watch, Listen

To Read: Nonfiction Books about Black Canadian History

To Watch

To Read: Black Canadian Fiction Authors

To Explore: Websites

To Listen: Podcasts