Introduction

Rosemary Brown (photograph by Barbara Woodley/Labatt Breweries of Canada/Library and Archives Canada/PA-186871)
Image: Rosemary Brown (1930-2003) was a social worker, academic, politician, and feminist who with "unwavering single mindedness" fought for justice for both women and minorities across Canada (photograph by Barbara Woodley/Labatt Breweries of Canada/Library and Archives Canada/PA-186871).

African-Canadians have contributed to all areas, enriching the Canadian educational, political, business, religious, and cultural landscapes. Early contributors worked within the Black community, without much public recognition. Sometimes, a Black person would gain high office due to their skill, experience, wealth, or commitment that made their race less of an issue. Later, as more opportunities were fought for, or opened up, more African-Canadians could enter a wider range of public positions.

Those who tread where no other African-Canadian had before broke ground for others. As co-workers, colleagues, and the broader community interacted with the new "coloured" person, the process allowed them to face head-on their own preconceived notions based on race and possibly replace them with realistic knowledge about the individual's ability, interests, and strengths.

African-Canadians were at the forefront of the anti-slavery movement in the 1800s and were equally involved in human rights struggles in the 1960s and 1970s. Following the Black Power movement and the many incidents of violence directed at the African-American community through church bombings, and violent reactions to non-violent protests, African-Canadians were also compelled to look critically at this society and to seek justice. Canadian segregation was addressed, and dealt a severe blow through the Viola Desmond incident, but more work had to take place across the country to loosen the hold of negative laws, behaviours, and practices. Those who worked to create change and who have taken a risk on behalf of the rights of others have helped to recast Canadian society.

Rosemary Sadlier