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Black History Month

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


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Brenda Smith
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Canadian Black History Timeline

1605 – Mathieu Da Costa is believed to be the first black 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

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

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

August 28, 1833 – British Parliament abolishes slavery

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”

September 25, 1963 – Leonard Braithwaite becomes the first black 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”

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


(This timeline has been adapted from: 1) Black History Canada. (2014). Black history timeline. Retrieved from And 2) Canadian Encyclopedia. (2021). Timeline: Black history. Retrieved from: See this website for more events and detail.)

The Origin of Black History Month

February is recognized as Black History Month.

Black History Month originated in the United States. It started as Negro History Week in 1926 and later became Black History Month 50 years later in 1976.

In Canada, Black History Month was first recognized by the House of Commons in December 1995. This motion was brought forward by the Honourable Jean Augustine, the first African-Canadian woman to be elected to the House of Commons.

Black History Month was later recognized by Senate in March 2008 following a motion by Senator Donald Oliver, the first black man to be appointed to Canada’s Senate.


Government of Canada. 2009. About Black History Month.

Canadian Black History Photos

Negro Volunteer Military Company formed between 1860 - 1862, disbanded in 1863 - 1864.

Charles Gentile / Library and Archives Canada / C-022626

Mrs. Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1923) - anti-slavery activist.

Library and Archives Canada / C-029977

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


This guide was originally created by Chuck Harris.


Black Canadian History Books

Black Canadian Videos

Black Canadian Fiction Authors