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Books for learning about Canadian Black History

By Kobo • February 03, 2023Big Ideas in Books

An assortment of books about the history of Black people in Canada, from its earliest days to the recent past.

From books for young readers to serious academic works, there is plenty to delve into. Whether you’re looking for an overview or want to focus on a certain person or place, you can find something to read about Canadian Black History on Kobo.

The Underground Railroad Records: Narrating the Hardships, Hairbreadth Escapes, and Death Struggles of Slaves in Their Efforts for Freedom by William Still

William Still was a "conductor" for the Underground Railroad, the covert network of resistors against slavery who smuggled enslaved people out of the American South, often to Canada. Here are the letters and notes Still collected during his years spent serving the cause of freedom.

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They Call Me George: The Untold Story of The Black Train Porters by Cecil Foster

Several years before the TV show The Porter brought the (fictionalized) stories of railway porters of Canadian rail lines, novelist Cecil Foster penned this history about a little-known aspect of Black life during Canada's earliest history.

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In the Black: My Life by B. Denham Jolly

B. Denham Jolly was born in Jamaica and studied at several Canadian universities, graduating in 1960 with a degree in science. This is his story about building a career in media in Canada, including the founding of seminal Toronto radio station FLOW 93.5 in 2001.

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Shut Out: The Game That Did Not Love Me Black by Bernie Saunders with Barry Meisel

Born in 1956, Bernie Saunders was the 5th Black player ever in the NHL, and he was met with derision and mockery from not only opponents and spectators, but even coaches and his own teammates. This memoir is his account of how he struggled to make it in the NHL, despite the obstructions other threw in his way.

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Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner and Richard Rudnicki

This biographical picture book tells the story of Canadian activist Viola Desmond, who sparked civil rights action in 1946 Nova Scotia. During a time of institutionalized segregation, she was one of the leaders of change-focused activism in Canada.

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Go To School, You’re A Little Black Boy: The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander: A Memoir by Lincoln Alexander

This memoir by Canada’s first Black member of Parliament and leading politician and scholar, Lincoln Alexander, tells the story of his exemplary life in his own words, with a singular perspective on Canadian life for a Black person.

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A Sporting Chance: Achievements of African-Canadian Athletes by William Humber

This short volume covers the history of Black athletes in Canada. Read up on individual sports and individual athletes while also learning about Canada’s overall attitude towards athletes of color from the early days of popular amateur and professional sports to the present.

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The Last to Die: Ronald Turpin, Arthur Lucas, and the End of Capital Punishment in Canada by Robert J. Hoshowsky

If you’re interested in a more focused look at Canadian history, read this investigative work about the last two people to die from capital punishment in Canada in 1964, including Arthur Lucas, a Black man from Detroit.

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Last Days in Africville by Dorothy Perkyns

Africville was a Black community that was demolished in the mid-20th century. Read this short novel about a 12-year old girl living in Africville at the end of its life. A finalist for multiple awards for youth literature in the early 2000s, the novel touches on many aspects of young life in the 1960s, including race relations.

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Africa’s Children: A History of Blacks in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia by Sharon Robart-Johnson

Focused on a very specific community in Nova Scotia, Africa’s Children chronicles the lives of Black Canadians from the first group of enslaved Africans who arrived with Loyalist enslavers as well as free Black Loyalists who made the move from the vibrantly anti-monarchical American colonies further south.

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Emancipation Day: Celebrating Freedom in Canada by Natasha L. Henry

As part of the British Commonwealth, Canada was one of the countries affected by the Emancipation Act of 1834. In this detailed history, Black scholar Natasha L. Henry discusses the ways, past and present, Canadians have celebrated the anniversary of the day it was passed.

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