Black History Month

February is Black History Month. AMAPCEO recognizes Black History Month as an occasion to highlight and to reflect on the accomplishments and contributions of Canadians of African descent into public consciousness and to recognize and celebrate equality. 

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View more profiles on prominent Black Ontarians:

Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Mary Ann Shadd 

Born to free parents in Wilmington, Delaware, Mary Ann Shadd followed the Underground Railroad to Canada to continue with her Quaker activism and mission. In Windsor, Ontario she wrote educational booklets encouraging Black settlers to come to Canada and set up an integrated school that did not charge those too poor to pay in a time before public education. One of her most impressive accomplishments occurred after she moved to St. Catharines and established the Provincial Freeman newspaper, an informative bulletin about the successes of Black people living in freedom in Canada. Although she initially had to have a man stand in for her as publisher, with time she came forward and was revealed to be the first Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper.

Shadd obtained Canadian citizenship and the culmination of her life’s work occurred from Ontario, however, she did return to the United States to try to vote in 1871, one year before Susan B. Anthony attempted the same feat, and almost a hundred years before Congress passed the Voting Rights Act.

Thanks to Historica Canada for Mary Ann’s Biography.

Lincoln M. Alexander

Lincoln M. Alexander

Going on to be Canada’s first Black lieutenant-governor, Lincoln M. Alexander fought racial injustice from the beginning of his career. During World War II, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force during an era where it was frequently discriminatory towards any members who weren’t white.
His dedication to public service continued after the war ended, going to Osgoode Hall Law School and eventually being appointed to the Queen’s Counsel, a title given to lawyers deemed worthy to argue cases for the crown, before he entered politics. Although defeated during his run for MPP, he went on to run and win the federal seat for Hamilton West, making him the first Black Canadian MP. He thought he was retiring from public political life to act as chairman of Ontario’s Workers’ Compensation Board, but he was sworn in as Ontario’s 24th Lieutenant-Governor, the first Black Canadian to fill this highly respected role.
In this role, Lincoln Alexander was able to make important strides in fighting the discrimination he faced while building his career. Known for his strength and humility, he was recognized as a Companion of the Order of Canada and to the Order of Ontario for his notable public service contributions and changing attitudes to create a more racially tolerant country.
Thanks to The Canadian Encyclopedia for Lincoln M. Alexander’s biography.

Leonard Braithwaite

Leonard Braithwaite

Leonard Braithwaite was raised in Kensington Market, Toronto, during the Depression. After serving in the RCAF during World War II, he earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Toronto. Following an MBA from the Harvard Business School, he attended Osgoode Hall Law School, eventually becoming the first Black man to be elected to the Governing Council of the Law Society of Upper Canada. 

In 1960, he started his involvement in politics as a member of the Etobicoke board of education and was then elected as an alderman on the Etobicoke city council. In 1963, he ran as an MPP and became the first African Canadian to be elected to a provincial legislature in Canada - a position he held until 1975. During his time in Queen’s Park, he served as a critic for Labour and Welfare and was known as a staunch activist for gender and racial equality, fighting racial segregation in Ontario public schools.

In 1998, Braithwaite was recognized as a Member of the Order of Canada, and in 2004 he was appointed to the Order of Ontario. 

Thanks to Black History Canada for information about Leonard Braithwaite.

Howard McCurdy

Howard McCurdy was elected as the second black Member of Parliament in Canada in 1984, but his role as a civil rights leader began much earlier. Born in London, Ontario on December 19, 1932, he recognized and fought racism in the form of boycotts and sit ins from a young age.

“My political career began when I was 13 years old … it began when I could not shoot pool in the pool hall in my town and I could not bowl in the bowling alley where I set pins.”

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Western Ontario and a Bachelor of Science at Assumption University, he earned a Master of Science and at Ph.D. in microbiology and chemistry from Michigan State University, where he helped found the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP.)

After earning his Ph.D., he became the first Black person to hold a tenure track position in a Canadian university at Assumption College (now the University of Windsor.) In his academic position he authored over 50 scientific papers and founded the Canadian College of Microbiologists. 

In 1982, Howard was elected as an alderman in the city of Windsor before going on to be elected as Canada’s second black MP. In the House of Commons, he was known as a passionate trailblazer who was focused on connecting Black youth with their history after discovering that his great grandmother, Nasa McCurdy, was an agent of the Underground Railroad. He was known as a mentor and friend across party lines, and was celebrated with a Canadian Centennial Medal (1967), the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada (2012) among others. 

Howard McCurdy passed away last week, on February 20, 2018 after suffering from cancer. AMAPCEO sends the best to his family and friends, and we are proud to recognize his historic legacy.

Thanks to Pride Magazine for McCurdy’s biography.

Event Details

Black History Month

Date: Thursday, February 01, 2018

Time: 12:00 am

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