Black History Month Created

Image: Black History Month was introduced in 1995 following a motion by the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, Jean Augustine. Here, Prime Minister Chrétien and Toronto MP Jean Augustine walk through the slave house on Goree Island off the coast of Dakar, Senegal, Nov 1999 (courtesy CP Archives)

Black History Month provides an opportunity to share and learn about the experiences, contributions and achievements of peoples of African ancestry. It was initiated in Canada by the Ontario Black History Society, which was founded in 1978.

Before we had Black History Month in Canada, there was a movement to recognize North Americans of African descent. In 1926, African American historian, Carter G. Woodson conceived of the idea to declare Negro History Week (which became Black History Month) to coincide with the birth month of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist and former enslaved person, Frederick Douglass. Later, sleeping car porters brought the idea north across the border into Canada.

Stanley G. Grizzle organized the first celebration of February as Black History Month at Toronto's African Canadian "Shaw Street" British Methodist Episcopal Church in 1950. At the time, no one could have imagined that it would grow to encompass the imagination of the entire country. The efforts of the Canadian Negro Women's Association kept it alive over the years.

Finally, through the efforts of the founders of the Ontario Black History Society, including Dr. Daniel G. Hill and Wilson O. Brooks, a petition was presented to the City of Toronto to have February formally proclaimed as Black History Month. In 1979, the first-ever Canadian proclamation was issued by Toronto. In 1993, the Ontario Black History Society successfully filed a petition in Ontario to proclaim February as Black History Month.

Following its success in Ontario Rosemary Sadlier, President of the Ontario Black History Society, introduced the idea of having Black History Month recognized across Canada to Jean Augustine, MP and Parliamentary Secretary. The motion was unanimously passed in the House of Commons on December 5, 1995, and the first national declaration of Black History Month in Canada went into effect in February 1996. The Ontario Black History Society was the only organization advised of the imminent reading in the House and the subsequent vote, and the only non-governmental representation at the high profile inaugural reception with Prime Minister Jean Chretien held on Parliament Hill to mark the occasion.

Why a Black History Month?
Scroll down to page 2 for an article about the origins of Black History Month by Rosemary Sadlier, President, Ontario Black History Society. From the Toronto District School Board.

Toronto celebrates Black History Month
A brief history of Black History Month celebrations in Toronto. From the website for the City of Toronto.

The Great Black North
An article about Rosemary Sadlier, author and the president of the Ontario Black History Society. Sadlier, the OBHS, and former MP and Parliamentary Secretary Jean Augustine were instrumental in establishing Black History Month in Canada. From Sway magazine.

Untold stories clamour to be heard
A news story about Black History Month, a period of contemplation and celebration of the history of the Black community in Canada. From

Black History Month Association
The website for the Black History Month Association.

In our own words...
Profiles of prominent African Canadians presented in celebration of Black History Month. From the website.

The role of music in the film The Little Black School House
Sylvia Hamilton talks about the role of music in her film The Little Black School House. From

Hon. Jean Augustine, PC , MP , LL.D
Scroll down the page for a photo and brief profile of the Hon. Jean Augustine, PC, MP, LL.D. Also see profile for Fred Sherman, who assisted Hon. Jean Augustine's efforts to recognize Black History Month on a national level. From the website for Black History Ottawa.

African Heritage Month
This guide offers advice for integrating topics related to African Heritage into the curriculum. From the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.

African Canadian History Collection
This site features films about historical events that built African Canadian identity. From the National Film Board of Canada.

Black History Month
Read about the role of Black History Month in Canada. Also see related features about the origins of this national celebration of African Canadian history and culture. From the website for the Ontario Black History Society.

Black History Month
The official website for Montréal’s Black History Month.

Quick guide to Black History Month
A look back at contributions that African Canadians have made throughout history regarding the advancement of human rights and related issues. From The Gazette newspaper.

Black History Month 2010
An introduction to the little-known history of Black participation in The United Church of Canada, from the original Union United Church in Montréal to congregations across Canada.

Mixing it up: or putting black history in Montréal
Historian Dr. Dorothy Williams writes about the impact of the Black community on the history of the City of Montréal. From the website for The Link, Concordia University.

Canadian Black History - An Interactive Experience
Search for clues about Black Canadian history in this interactive online treasure hunt presented by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Black History Month
A brief feature about the origins of Black History Month in Canada. From the website for Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The Complex Face of Black Canada
Writer George Elliott Clarke discusses Canadian Black identity. From the McGill News, McGill University, Montréal.

Dorothy Williams
The official website for historian Dorothy Williams.